Several of us went to see the new exhibit at Summit Park called the World of the Sloth. It features a glass barrier so people can see the sloths but protect them from their visitors. Perezozo is the word for sloth in Spanish.
The animals were sleeping in their specially made hammocks, curled up looking so cute. Over this section of the exhibit, a roof provides shade for sloths and visitors alike. A plank, strategically placed, held a dish of sloth delectables. Looked like squash to me.
Sloths are nocturnal and sleep through the day. The rest of the exhibit contained a small waterfall feature, strong branches for the animals to climb on and various plants that make the sloth-friendly area attractive but easy to maintain.
A knowledgeable attendant was on hand to answer questions. They had a handout, an ethical code for taking photos of, and selfies with, wildlife that is cruelty-free and does not terrify the animals.
Leaves of the cecropia tree are eaten by all sloths. Three-toed sloths eat a limited diet from only a few trees. Two-toed sloths have a wider diet with insects, small lizards and fruit included added when available besides the tree leaves. It can take sloths up to a month to digest their food.
All sloths have 3 toes on their back legs but it is the number of toes on their front legs tells which genera they belong in. Many kinds of sloths have gone extinct. Only 6 species still exist in the world, different sloths in different tropical areas.
Of the 6 species, 3 live in Panama: the 2-toed Choloepus hoffmanni, and the 3-toed Bradypus variegatus and the Bradypus pygmaeus. The last one is only found in Escudo de Veraguas and is in danger of extinction. The others are losing quantity so are close to joining the endangered list.
Sloths are slow moving which allows them to exist on their diet of low-energy leaves. It also helps them avoid their enemies, such as the hawks, cats and the Harpy eagle, which hunt by sight.
For further camouflage, their shaggy hair has grooves that is host to green algae. This algae also provides some nutrients to the sloth. Most animal’s hair grows from their top toward their legs. Because of their inverted life style, sloth’s hair grows pointing from their feet towards their backs. Their hair is a mini-ecosystem. Ticks, lice, mites, mosquitoes and other little creatures call sloth hair their home. There is even a moth that lives only on sloths.
Legs and claws of sloths are adapted to allow them to hang upside down without having to use energy. However, when on the ground they are almost helpless. They cannot walk. But they are strong swimmers.
Sloths often eat, sleep, and even give birth while hanging upside down. Thus they spend most of their lives in slow motion. They live about 16 years in captivity.
They look cute but they do not make good pets. It is very hard to meet their exacting requirements in order for them to thrive. Leave them to the experts. Occasionally, you might see one in the wild. Look for their favorite trees. Or come visit them in the World of the Sloth at Summit Park.