Have you ever wanted to have a sloth encounter? If so, then meet sloths in the US with this guide. This is not your average blog post, but an informative blog on where to meet sloths in the US, find out what type of sloth you’ll encounter, and general information about these amazing creatures!
Before you meet a sloth in the US, get ready with all you need to know:
- What are sloths, and what do they eat?
- Sloth facts – learn more about these fascinating animals!
- Are sloths endangered?
- Can I touch a sloth?
- The top 5 places for a sloth encounter in the US
- The future of sloths – how can we help them survive and thrive?
What are sloths, and what do they eat?
If you ever wonder what type of animal a sloth is? Sloths are mammals from the Xenarthra superorder. The Xenarthra is divided into two families: Cingulata, or armadillos, and Pilosa, or anteaters and sloths. All of them are endemic to the Americas.
There are two types of sloths, identified by the number of fingers: the two-fingered sloth or Choloepus and the three-fingered sloth or Bradypus.
Among these two types, there are six species:
- the Pygmy three-fingered sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus),
- the Maned sloth three-fingered sloth (Bradypus torquatus),
- the Pale-throated three-fingered sloth (Bradypus tridactylus),
- the Brown-throated three-fingered sloth (Bradypus variegatus),
- the Linnaeus’s two-fingered sloth (Choloepus didactylus),
- and Hoffman’s two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).
Two of the six types of sloths are endangered. The pygmy three-toed sloth is critically endangered, and the maned three-toed sloth is considered vulnerable.
To meet sloths in their natural habitat, you have to look high up in the trees where they live, where they can easily find leaves to eat! They also eat seed pods and fruit. In the wild, sloths prefer to eat leaves from a variety of more than 90 different trees. An individual sloth will vary their favorites among approximately 7 to 12 feeding trees. This method keeps them from overconsuming any type of leaf to avoid food competition and makes it easier for scientists to study their diet by analyzing fecal samples.
Sloth facts – Learn more about these fascinating animals!
Here is a list of amazing sloths facts for the sloths’ fanatics*.
- Sloths Speed – Sloths are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their lives in trees. They move slowly through the canopy, mostly upside down at a speed of about 1 foot per second, just over half a mile per hour. A sloth at maximum speed can reach a distance of only 1 meter in 1.5 seconds. That’s just 1.5 miles per hour!
- Sloths Swimmers – Sloths are surprisingly good swimmers. They swim through water three times quicker than they move on land. They can even drop down from treetop branches into the water and use their arms to move through it.
- Sloths Digestion – Sloths have a slow metabolism, so it takes longer for their bodies to break down the food they eat. They have four multi-chambered stomachs similar to those of a cow, and they house a blend of bacteria that aids in the decomposition of leaves.
- Sloth Teeths – Sloths don’t have to worry about losing teeth because they are “hypsodonts,” which means their teeth keep growing throughout their lives.
- Sloth Vision – Sloths are color-blind. They have poor eyesight in low light and are blind in strong sunshine.
- Sloths Poop – Sloths are recognized for their unusual and strange bathroom habits. Sloths defecate every five days, and they will do so only on the ground. This is a significant issue for a sloth. Sloths must descend from the safety of the canopy to the forest floor, which is both energetically and physically exhausting. Because they’re so sluggish on the ground, they’re more prone to being hunted by predators.
- Sloths Hair – Sloths have two layers: an inner layer of fine, soft hair near the skin and a long outer layer of coarse hair. The sloth´s hair grows algae, which gives them a greenish color that allows them to blend into the trees they live in. The fur serves as a habitat for an entire ecosystem of over 80 different kinds of algae and fungi.
- Sloths Size – Two-fingered sloths are much larger than three-fingered. Adult sloths can reach 31 inches long and, depending on the species, weigh from 7.9 to 18 pounds. Sloths don’t regulate their temperature and rely on the sun’s heat for warmth and shade for cooling down.
- Sloths Sleep – A sloth in the wild generally sleeps between 8 – 10 hours, taking short naps along the day and the night. They sleep in the trees and often remain motionless even when awake. A sloth’s grip on a branch is so firm that it can hang upside down in a tree while sleeping.
- Sloths Survival – They are the only mammal in the world that looks green because of their algae-coated fur, which helps them blend into the leaves and vines where they live. Sloths are vulnerable to various predators, including jaguars, ocelots, and harpy eagles. They avoid them by moving slowly. Their movements are so sluggish that most predators cannot detect them.
- Sloths Babies – A sloth will only give birth to one baby every two years. The gestation period of a sloth varies by species. Two-fingered sloths have a gestation period of 10 months. In comparison, three-fingered sloth pregnancies last six months. The baby is usually born while hanging upside down after the mother has descended to the lower canopy branches. If the infant falls to the ground, the mom can come down and get the unharmed baby sloth.
*Source: The Sloth Conservation Foundation
Are sloths endangered?
Sloths have been around for about 35 million years, but they are now endangered due to deforestation and climate change. Without trees to live in, these animals cannot eat properly or keep cool with their thick fur. The habitat of sloths is tropical rainforests of South America and Central America.
Two of the six species of sloths rate high on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN) of endangered animals. The Pygmy three-toed sloth is “Critically Endangered,” and the Maned three-toed sloth is considered “Vulnerable.”
Pet a sloth – Can I touch a sloth?
You’re not going to pet a sloth like you would with your cat or dog. Sloths are wild animals, and they don’t necessarily want to be touched by humans.
When touching a sloth at a zoo, you must be with an experienced zookeeper. It should always be a supervised encounter to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for the sloth and you.
Sloths may appear to be fluffy, but they are not teddy bears – they are wild animals with strong, pointed teeth. Sloth teeth grow throughout their lives and grind against each other when they chew, creating some exceptionally sharp teeth.
While they may appear as adorable as our pets, sloths are still wild animals. Sloths are typically uninterested in being stroked, groomed, or washed; these are not typical behaviors for them.
The top 5 places for a sloth encounter in the US
To anyone who adores sloths, an encounter with one would be incredible. But many people do not know that there are places where they can meet and even feed one in the US or get the chance to touch one.
Here is a list of the top places in the United States where you can have a close encounter with them:
At Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita, Kansas, you can have a VIP sloth experience where guests enter the sloth enclosure with an experienced zookeeper while getting the rare opportunity to meet the sloths up-close as well as feed, touch, and get photos with them.
At Pittsburg National Aviary, you can also meet a sloth up close and learn about sloths in the wild and the importance of rainforest conservation.
The Palm Beach Zoo is the home of Wilbur, a Hoffman’s two-toed sloth. Here you can spend time with her while learning some amazing sloth fun facts… yes, Wilbur it’s a female!
In Michigan, at the Indian Creek Zoo, you get a close-up experience of how sloths live and learn more about how they take care of their sloths.
The future of sloths – how can we help them survive and thrive?
Sloths are threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation across Central and South America where countries like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia have their forests being destroyed to provide land for cattle ranching.
Because of deforestation, sloths now live in fragmented landscapes. And, with fewer trees, they have to stay on the ground longer, being more vulnerable to predators.
As humans, we can help sloths both directly, through conservation efforts such as protecting forest habitats and reducing traffic across their range, and indirectly, by working to reduce the threats from climate change.
You can also help by taking part in International Sloth Day, celebrated every year on October 20. A day for raising awareness and knowledge about sloths and their importance and the problems they face.
Sloths are one of the most fascinating animals in the world, but they’re also threatened. The sloth encounter is a great way to get up close and personal with these adorable creatures while helping support their conservation efforts. We hope you’ll come and meet our sloths at Tanganyika Wildlife Park!