Are there only 100 Sloths left?

Alex Williams
11 Min Read

Our Earth is home to numerous animal species of all kinds. Some of them got extinct, while others are still among us. Humans have been more dangerous to animals than anything else because behind the extinction of numerous animal species humans have been the primary reason. And another animal on the list is a sloth. Based on their present state, I wonder: are there only 100 sloths left? Why are sloths endangered? Let’s begin this article and explore further.

1. What are Sloths?

The group of arboreal neotropical xenarthran mammals of the suborder Folivora is sloths. They are known for their extremely slow movements and their signature hanging style, in which they hung upside down from trees. According to experts, they are the closest relatives of anteaters. Are there only 100 sloths left? Read till the end to know the answer.

2. Where are They Found?

The remaining extant species of sloths are native to the forests of South America and Central America, tropical rainforests in northern regions of South America, tropical forests in the Andes, and possibly the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Read What Animal lives in a Den?

3. How Big are They?

Sloths have big limbs and curved claws that help them hang accurately on the branches. Their head is round and their ears are short. The size of two-toed sloths is slightly larger than that of three-toed sloths. Unlike their ancestor, Megatherium, the length of the new world sloths can be between 60 centimeters to 80 centimeters, (24 to 31 inches). Their average weight can be between 3.6 kilograms to 7.7 kilograms (7.9 to 17.0 lb.). However, three-toed sloths have bushy tail which is 5 centimeters to 6 centimeters (2.0 to 2.4 inches) long. (See What is an African Lion’s Weight in kg?)

4. What is the Least Known Characteristic of Sloth?

Their slow speed is their well-known characteristic, but very few people know that sloths have poor vision and hearing. They have color vision, and they can see different colors, but not clearly. You were looking for, are there only 100 sloths left, but did you know this fact about sloths? They mostly rely on their smell and touch sensors to find their food and to protect them. Must see List of Animals with Manes.

5. How do They Protect themselves?

Photo by Javier Mazzeo on Unsplash

They have coarse fur that grows in the opposite direction since they spent most time hanging. Their fur develops symbiotic algae which gives them an advantage to camouflage from their predators like ocelots, jaguars, and American harpy eagles. So, are there only 100 sloths left? Do you think the predators are responsible for this count? (See What are Behavioral Adaptation of Animals?)

6. What is Their Diet?

Sloths are mainly herbivores, except for one specie, namely Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, which eats lizards, bird eggs, and bird nestlings. The rest of the sloth species feed on leaves, buds, and twigs. They do not have incisors to cut or chop the leaves. They use their lips to trim the leaves as they eat them. (Also read What Do Possums Eat?)

7. What is the Reason behind their Slow Pace?

The metabolic rate of sloths is less than that of a mammal of the same size as a sloth. When they are active, their body temperature ranges between 30° to 34° Celsius (86° to 93° Fahrenheit), but they are capable of lowering it further if needed. The lowest recorded temperature of a healthy sloth is about 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit). (See Are Possums Dangerous to Humans?)

8. What is the Speed of a Sloth?

Sloths are capable of hanging on trees without any effort, but they cannot walk. Therefore, they move very rarely and only when extremely required. An average speed of a sloth can be between 4 meters (13 feet) to 4.5 meters per minute on trees. On land, they drag themselves at a speed of 3 meters (9.8 feet) per minute. (See How Far do Snakes Travel?)

9. Are They Good Swimmers?

Despite their slow speed, sloths are known to be good swimmers. They use their arms and paddle through the water. They can swim between islands and cross rivers. While swimming, their speed can be around 13.5 meters (44 feet) per minute. They are capable of holding their breath underwater for about 40 minutes because they can slow their metabolic rate. This also helps them to hide from predators. (See What Animal Can Defeat an Eagle?)

10. Why are Sloths Endangered?

Photo by Ignacio Hernandez on Unsplash

Habitat loss, threats, and poaching are the main reasons why sloths are endangered.

  • Habitat loss: Ever increasing human population and their increasing demands for everything have led to deforestation on a large scale. Since sloths are habitual to living on trees in forests, they are suffering due to huge habitat loss.
  • Food Shortage: With deforestation comes a shortage of food for animals. Sloths feed mainly on leaves and fruits, and a lack of trees is forcing them to starve. They do not eat much because they have a slow metabolism, which makes it longer to digest what they eat. 
  • No safety: Spending most of their time on trees is a way to protect themselves from predators. They are slow and cannot swiftly escape the predator, and staying on heights keeps them safe. They come down once every 7 to 8 days to defecate. However, fewer trees mean low to no protection at all, and this makes them easy prey. 
  • Poaching: Sloths can live up to 20 years even in wild, if not bothered by poachers and hunters. But illegal killing is predominant because they are an easy catch for humans. Mostly they are hunted for, traded, and sold pets. Rarely, they are hunted for food, but in some areas, people eat them.
  • Unable to protect themselves: Sloths neither have sharp claws nor are they strong. All this makes them incapable of protecting themselves and their young ones. Since they hang on trees, they are an easy shot for hunters with guns. Sometimes they are even taken by hand because they are so slow to react to the stimuli.

11. Are There Only 100 Sloths Left?

Sloths are divided into two categories, namely two-toed and three-toed, and together they make up the 6 extant (living) species of sloths. As per the data provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 2 out of 6 species of sloths are endangered and on the verge of extinction.

Are there only 100 sloths left? Pygmy sloths are found only on the Escudo de Veraguas Island, Panama, and, as per the last assessment provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2013, it was believed at that time there were only 100 of them left in the world. However, according to the WWF List, right now, there are almost 1500 sloths left in the world.

The population of the Maned sloth is also slowly decreasing around the world. (See How many Bengal Tigers are Left in the World?)

12. Will Sloths Go Extinct?

Photo by Jack Charles on Unsplash

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the other four species out of 6 are also facing threats, and their population is declining over time and will decline more in near future. The following are the living 6 species of sloths and the list in which they are mentioned as per their population ratio.

  • The pygmy three-toed sloth is on the Critically Endangered list.
  • Maned three-toed sloths are on the Vulnerable list and may soon enter the Critically Endangered list.
  • Paled throated three-toed sloth is on the Least Concerned list.
  • Brown-throated sloths are on the Least Concerned list.
  • Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth is on the Least Concerned list.
  • Hoffman’s two-toed sloth is mentioned as the Least Concerned list holder.

13. What is their Relation with Humans?

The relationship between humans and sloths can be the reason behind their population count. Are there only 100 sloths left, because their relationship is bitter and there are hardly any chances of betterment either? According to the researchers, a majority of the sloth population in Costa Rica, Central America, died due to poachers and electrical lines. They are a huge part of animal trafficking and are often sold as pets which surely is not a good place for them, as they are not considered good pets. 

So, today you learned about the reasons why are sloths endangered. Also, about: are there only 100 sloths left? Well, the fact is that if humans continue to destroy the natural habitat and illegal killing, which can make you wonder, will sloths go extinct? (See Why Did the Archaeopteryx Become Extinct?)

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