A rare sight on Taboga at Cerrito Tropical B&B, in Panama, even though we are located by the rainforest, many of the animals stay far away from the village – a Sloth (two-toed sloth we believe – choloepus hoffmanni).
One of our guests was fortunate enough to spot this slow moving creature on Taboga today.
More Sloth Info From Wikipedia:
Sloths are the six species of medium-sized mammals belonging to the families Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae, part of the order Pilosa. They are arboreal residents of the rainforests of Central and South America. The sloth’s taxonomic suborder is Folivora, while some call it Phyllophaga. Both names mean “leaf-eaters”; the first is derived from Latin, the second from Greek. Names for the animals used by tribes in Ecuador include Ritto, Rit and Ridette, mostly forms of the word “sleep”, “eat” and “dirty” from Tagaeri tribe of Huaorani, in Brazil sloths are commonly called “Bicho-preguiça” (“lazy animal”) because of slow movements related to their very low metabolism.
Sloths are considered to be folivores as the bulk of their diet consists mostly of buds, tender shoots, and leaves, mainly of Cecropia trees. Some two-toed sloths have been documented as eating insects, small reptiles and birds as a small supplement to their diet. They have made extraordinary adaptations to an arboreal browsing lifestyle. Leaves, their main food source, provide very little energy or nutrition and do not digest easily. Sloths therefore have very large, specialized, slow-acting stomachs with multiple compartments in which symbiotic bacteria break down the tough leaves. As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth’s body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach, and the digestive process can take a month or more to complete.
Even so, leaves provide little energy, and sloths deal with this by a range of economy measures: they have very low metabolic rates (less than half of that expected for a mammal of their size), and maintain low body temperatures when active (30 °C (86 °F) to 34 °C (93 °F)), and still lower temperatures when resting.
Although unable to survive outside the tropical rainforests of South and Central America, within that environment sloths are outstandingly successful creatures: they can account for as much as half the total energy consumption and two-thirds of the total terrestrial mammalian biomass in some areas. Of the six living species, only one, the Maned Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus torquatus), has a classification of “endangered” at present. The ongoing destruction of South America’s forests, however, may soon prove a threat to other sloth species.
Sloth furs exhibit specialized functions: the outer hairs grow in a direction opposite from that of other mammals. In most mammals, hairs grow toward the extremities, but because sloths spend so much time with their legs above their bodies, their hairs grow away from the extremities in order to provide protection from the elements while the sloth hangs upside down. In most conditions, the fur hosts two species of symbiotic cyanobacteria, which provide camouflage. Because of the cyanobacteria, sloth fur is a small ecosystem of its own, hosting many species of non-parasitic insects. Sloths have short, flat heads; big eyes; a short snout; long legs; and tiny ears. They also have stubby tails, usually 6–7 cm long. Altogether, sloths’ bodies usually are anywhere between 50 and 60 cm long.
Sloths’ claws serve as their only natural defense. A cornered sloth may swipe at its attackers in an effort to scare them away or wound them. Despite sloths’ apparent defenselessness, predators do not pose special problems: sloths blend in with the trees and, moving only slowly, do not attract attention. Only during their infrequent visits to ground level do they become vulnerable. The main predators of sloths are the jaguar, the harpy eagle, and humans. The majority of sloth deaths in Costa Rica are due to contact with electrical lines and poachers. Despite their adaptation to living in trees, sloths make competent swimmers. Their claws also provide a further unexpected deterrent to human hunters – when hanging upside-down in a tree they are held in place by the claws themselves and often do not fall down even if shot from below.
Sloths move only when necessary and even then very slowly: they have about a quarter as much muscle tissue as other animals of similar weight. They can move at a marginally higher speed if they are in immediate danger from a predator (4.5 m or 15 feet per minute), but they burn large amounts of energy doing so. Their specialized hands and feet have long, curved claws to allow them to hang upside-down from branches without effort. While they sometimes sit on top of branches, they usually eat, sleep, and even give birth hanging from limbs. They sometimes remain hanging from branches after death. On the ground their maximum speed is 0.54 m/s (1.8 ft/s) (1.9 km/h (1.2 mph)).
Three-toed Sloth in the Dallas World Aquarium
It had been thought that sloths were among the most somnolent animals, sleeping from 15 to 18 hours each day. Recently, however, Dr. Neil Rattenborg and his colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany, published a study testing sloth sleep-patterns in the wild; this is the first study of its kind. The study indicated that sloths sleep just under 10 hours a day.
They go to the ground to urinate and defecate about once a week, digging a hole and covering it afterwards. They go to the same spot each time and are vulnerable to predation while doing so. The reason for this risky behavior is unknown, although some believe that this is to avoid making noise while defecating from up high that would attract predators. Consistent with this, they reportedly relieve themselves from their branches during storms in rainy season. Another possible explanation is that the middens provide the sloths with one of their few methods of finding one another for breeding purposes, since their sense of smell is far more acute than their eyesight or hearing. It has also been pointed out that individual sloths tend to spend the bulk of their time feeding on a single “modal” tree; by burying their excreta near the trunk of that tree, they may help nourish it.
Infant sloths normally cling to their mother’s fur, but occasionally fall off. Sloths are very sturdily built and rarely die from a fall. In some cases they die from a fall indirectly because the mothers prove unwilling to leave the safety of the trees to retrieve the young. Females normally bear one baby every year, but sometimes sloths’ low level of movement actually keeps females from finding males for longer than one year.
Almost all mammals have seven cervical vertebrae or “neck bones” (including those with very short necks, such as elephants or whales, and those with very long necks, such as giraffes). The few exceptions include manatees and two-toed sloths, which each have only six cervical vertebrae, and three-toed sloths with nine cervical vertebrae.