Sloths are known to be elusive, adorable, and cuddly creatures who are slow-moving and live deep in the rainforest. These tropical mammals are much more than meets the eye. Sloths live in Central and South America. They use their long claws to hang onto branches while they feast on the leaves that other animals can’t reach.
Unfortunately for the sloth, their long claws, which are 3 to 4 inches, make walking on the ground difficult, so they spend most of their time in the tall trees they call home.
Their scientific name, Bradypus, is Greek for “slow feet,” which makes sense since it is the world’s slowest animal. It is so slow, in fact, that algae grows on its fur, according to National Geographic. The algae works to the sloth’s advantage, as the green of the algae helps the sloth blend into the trees as it hides from predators.
There are two categories of sloths. The two-toed sloth is slightly larger than the three-toed sloth, though they share many of the same features. They are about the size of a medium-sized dog at around 23 to 27 inches and 17.5 to 18.75 pounds.
Their diet is mainly leaves that can be difficult to digest. Sloths have a four-part stomach that slowly digests the leaves with bacteria. It can take up to a month for a sloth to digest one meal. Their leafy diet isn’t very nutritious, so they don’t get much energy from it. This may be why sloths are so slow.
Thousands of years ago, sloths were much larger. Ancient sloths could grow to be as large as an elephant. They roamed North America and became extinct around 10,000 years ago.
There are some amazing sloth rescues in Central and South America. One is The Sloth Institute, which is located in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. It is dedicated to helping sloths, focusing on education and releasing hand-raised sloths back to the rainforest. The Sloth Institute also collaborates with Kids Saving the Rainforest and Toucan Rescue Ranch to release their hand-raised orphans back into their rainforest habitat.
Only six species of sloths currently live in Central and South America. They are either endangered or declining due to people encroaching on their habitat, as well as due to the threat of the black market trade of endangered species, which includes the illegal pet trade.
Photographer and primate conservationist Sam Trull has spent a few years documenting these charismatic tree dwellers.
“I moved to Costa Rica to work with primates. Then I met my first sloth—and the rest is history,” she says.
At an animal refuge run by the U.S. nonprofit Kids Saving the Rainforest, Trull has helped nurse many orphaned or abandoned baby sloths, most of which are then released back into the wild. Along the way, she documented her work via photographs, which appear in her first book, Slothlove.
The Sloth Institute vision is to expand scientific knowledge and education about the sloth to enhance their well-being and assure their conservation here on this planet.
Source: Nat Geo
Photos: Sam Trull