There are six species of sloth in the world and all of them live in Central or South America. Sloth have to be one of the more unusual rainforest creatures due to their slow movement and habits. Sloth spend 99% of their lives in the trees and only come to the ground about once a week to defecate and urinate at the base of a tree. Just like felines, they are known to dig a hole for this purpose and then cover it up when they are done (Likely to hide their scent from predators or, as some theorize, to provide nutrients for the tree).
Sloth are very hard to spot in the wild. But, once you do spot one, you can watch it for hours since they move so slowly and tend to stay in the same tree all day long. Unfortunately, most of the time they are just a curled up ball of fur high in the branches of a tree which doesn’t make for great pictures.
The sloth was the one species I really wanted to see on my first trip to the jungle. But, since I didn’t know what I was looking for I mistook every darn arboreal termite nest for a sloth leading to many false alarms. Finally, it took a local to find and point one out for me.
Since then, I have seen many sloth including three of the six species. I have even gotten really good at spotting them on my own and on one trip my wife dubbed me the “sloth whisperer”.
The best sloth encounter we ever had was in Costa Rica. I spotted this juvenile Brown-throated Three-toed sloth about 10 feet off the ground.
We watched this sloth for close to an hour as it slowly climbed down to the ground, “took care of business”, and climbed back up out of sight. It was an amazing experience.
We have had other nice encounters as well. But, none will top that one.
We spotted this Brown-throated Three-toed sloth in Ecuador. Instead of eating leaves it was feeding on the bark of a tree. This was a behavior that our guides said they had not witnessed before and they were at a loss to explain it.
Next time you are in the rainforest, scan the trees (especially Cecropia trees) for grayish-green blobs and you just might be lucky enough to find a sloth.
For more photographs and trip reports, please visit FocusedOnNature.