October 20 is International Sloth Day! On this day, we celebrate these fascinating animals and raise awareness for their species as some of them are critically endangered. International Sloth Day was established by AIUNAU, an animal welfare group based in Colombia. Learn more about this species to better protect the animal! Here are 13 interesting facts about sloths:
There are six surviving species of sloths which can be divided into two groups – three-toed sloths and two-toed sloths. Two-toed sloths tend to be slightly larger than three-toed sloths. Three-toed sloths are gentler and have a smaller range of rainforest habitat . However, the extinct giant ground sloth could reach lengths as large as over 3 metres and weigh a ton!
Sloths are native to the rainforest of Central and South America.
The pygmy three-toed sloth is listed critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, while the maned three-toed sloth is endangered.
It can take sloths days to digest a single leaf!
The body temperature of sloths is slightly lower than most mammals. If their temperature drops too low, they can become sluggish.
Sloths have an incredibly slow metabolism, only relieving themselves once or twice a week.
According to World Animal Protection, sloths spend 90% of their time hanging upside down. This is because they have certain physical adaptations that carry the weight of their internal organs and prevent them from pushing down on the diaphragm.
Even though sloths are incredibly slow creatures on land, they are great swimmers. Sloths can travel three times faster in the water than they do on land and can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes at a time! How? Their stomachs have multiple chambers that were developed as a response to their slow digestion, which also acts as a floating device.
Long and coarse, sloths’ fur grows in the opposite direction to most other mammals. It also contains algae, which helps camouflage the animal when in the treetops.In 2010, researchers found that a type of green algae called Trichophilus welckeri passes down from mother sloth to baby sloth, suggesting a co-evolutionary relationship between the two species.
Sloths’ fur also has grooves and cracks where a variety of insects, like beetles, moths, fungi and cockroaches live!
The biggest threat facing sloths is habitat loss and destruction as a result of deforestation and humans taking sloths out of their natural habitats for circuses and shows.
Baby sloths cling to their mothers for up to six months after birth. Once they separate themselves, young sloths stay close to their mothers for two to four years, depending on the species.
Now that you’ve learnt a bit more about sloths, you can help them by donating to charities that are putting effort into the conservation of sloths. Also, if you ever come across a sloth, avoid feeding and touching them as they are sensitive animals that may become stressed. The more we work together and respect the animals and nature in our environment, the better chance they have of surviving and thriving.
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