If you’ve never seen a sloth, you may be missing out on one of the most adorable and curious animals on the planet. These arboreal mammals are known for being lethargic and slow-moving creatures, which makes them an exciting find for animal lovers. If you are interested in learning more about sloths, be sure to read on.
Thirteen Facts to Know About Sloths
• Though sloths are exceptionally clumsy on land and move slowly, they are actually excellent swimmers.
• Sloths spend most of their time in trees. In fact, they eat, sleep, mate, and even give birth hanging upside-down in trees.
• On average, sloths live between ten to 20 years in the wild. And, adult females can produce a single offspring one time per year.
• While humans urinate multiple times per day and defecate at least a few times per week, sloths only need to urinate and defecate one time per week.
• When sloths defecate and urinate, they tend to do their business in the same place each time. This strategy helps protect them from predators.
• Even though sloths are known to be sleepy animals, they only sleep about ten hours per day.
• Sloths can camouflage themselves as algae often grows on their fur. This is also a helpful strategy that protects them from deadly predators.
• Sloths are omnivores that eat leaves, insects, and small lizards, which provide them with minimal caloric intake. As a result, sloths tend to have very low energy levels.
• Sloths are preyed upon by jaguars, snakes, and eagles. Humans are also predatory towards sloths.
• Sloths are nocturnal.
• Sloths tend to spend their time alone and only gather with others when it is time to mate.
• Sloths have either two toes or three toes. And the different sloths have very different physical characteristics.
• Three-toed sloths belong to the family Bradypodidae and include:
• Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus)
• Maaned Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus torquatus)
• Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)
• Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
• Two-toed sloths belong to the family Megalonychidae and include:
• Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus)
• Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
• Sloths can turn their heads almost 360-degrees. This makes it very easy for them to be on the lookout for predators and to be aware of their surroundings.
Where to See Sloths
Sloths enjoy dry and humid forests as well as riparian forests (in close proximity of a body of water) and old secondary forests (wooded areas that have regrown after a timber harvest). For this reason, Costa Rica provides a primary viewing opportunity for those looking to see a sloth. Sloths have commonly been spotted in Manuel Antonio, Osa Peninsula/Corcovado National Park, Nuevo Arenal, Cano Negro (Northern Plains), Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Limon, Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Dominical/Uvita/Ojochal, Monteverde, Bijagua, and Vara Blanca. If you don’t see a sloth in the wild while visiting Costa Rica, you may have better luck seeking them at the Sloth Sanctuary located near Limon.
Sloths are also commonly found in eastern Honduras, western Ecuador, eastern Peru, western Brazil, and northern Bolivia. And remember, sloths tend to hang out high up in trees, so make sure that you look up when walking through the various forests that you visit during your sloth searching expedition.
Best Time of Day to See Sloths
As sloths are nocturnal, they tend to sleep during the day and be most active in the evenings. Many visitors to the various forests in Costa Rica will indicate that first thing in the morning makes for the best viewing time for these slow-moving animals. However, this isn’t to say that you won’t see them in the middle of the day.
Whatever time of day it is, be sure to look up high, as you may find a sloth hanging upside down high up in a tree.
Best Time of Year to See Sloths
Costa Rica, in particular, has two distinct seasons which include the high/dry season and the green/rainy season. If you want to avoid the rain, then March, April, September, and October are the best months to visit. But don’t worry that the rain will keep you from seeing sloths. In fact, sloths live in the humid rainforests. And over time, sloths have adapted to the regions where precipitation is excessive, and as a result, their fur allows the rainwater to simply run off. Thus, sloths can be seen year-round in Costa Rica and in the other areas indicated in this article.
Tips for Seeing Sloths
If you are interested in spotting a sloth, check out this list of tips to increase your chances and protect this adorable creature in the process.
• Look up high when wandering through the forests on your own, but be sure to stay aware of your surroundings as other animals tend to frequent the same forests, including jaguars. Sloths can easily camouflage themselves with algae, which makes them blend in with the leaves and coconuts that are located high up in the trees. So, you will need to focus to find these unique animals.
• Come prepared with a camera and zoom lens, or an adequate set of binoculars. Once you come across a sloth high up in those trees, you’ll want to be able to zoom in to get a closer look.
• Take a ton of photos and from different angles if possible. You won’t encounter sloths in the wild too often during your life unless you live in Costa Rica or in a similar humid, forest-type environment. So be sure to maximize the experience and capture plenty of photos that you can share with your family and friends.
Can I Pet a Sloth?
If you encounter a sloth up close, avoid the temptation to reach out and touch or pet the animal. Sloths tend to get stressed when touched by strangers, and though they are slow-moving and relatively harmless, they are a wild animal. Further, just as you should not touch a sloth, you certainly should not try to hug one. As much as you might want that selfie with a sloth, don’t try to reposition the sloth to make your photo Instagram-worthy.
Related: Is It Legal To Own A Sloth As A Pet?