Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Xenartha
Family:    Megalonychidae
Size:    Length: 21 to 29 inches (53 to 74 cm)
Weight: 9 to 21 pounds (4 to 9.5 kg)
Diet: Twigs, leaves, buds and fruit
Distribution: Central and South America
Young:  1 young every 14 to 16 months
Animal Predators:  Jaguars, ocelots, eagles and snakes
IUCN Status: Data Deficient
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 10 to 20 years in the wild and 30 or more years in captivity



·       Many of the internal organs of sloths are in different positions from other mammals.

·       The extinct giant ground sloth, an ancestor of the modern sloth, was the size of a modern elephant.

·       The Spanish word for sloth is  “perezoso,” which means “lazy.”

·       Adult sloths are about the same size as medium-sized dogs.



Two-toed sloths’ long hair, either brown or grey in colour, blends in with the trees, and during the rainy season, algae will grow throughout their fur, further camouflaging them from predators. They have two long claws on each forepaw, and will slash at a predator when threatened. They have a very flexible neck that allows them to look all around without moving their body. Two-toed sloths have a short, flat head, a snub nose, a stubby tail and large eyes. 



Two-toed sloths inhabit the tropical forests of Central and South America, including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Columbia, Venezuela, Guiana, north-central Brazil and northern Peru. They can only survive in rainforests in which the temperature is relatively stable because their body temperature follows that of their surroundings, and it is dangerous if it rises or falls too much.


Feeding Habits

Two-toed sloths eat twigs, leaves, buds and fruit, using their hard lips to break off the food. The leaves of cecropia trees are their favourite food. They are nocturnal, feeding only at night. They have a slow metabolic rate and can survive on a small amount of nourishment. They seldom drink, getting their moisture instead from leaves and dewdrops. 



Sloths are solitary animals that only come together for mating, during March or April. A male attracts a female by marking an area with his scent. Approximately six months after conception, the female gives birth to a single baby, while she hangs upside down. The baby crawls out and clings right-side-up to her belly. The newborn is approximately 10 inches (25 cm) long and weighs about 12 ounces (340 g). At 20 to 25 days, the young sloth will begin to hang upside down, and will nurse for approximately 75 days, after which it begins to eat the same vegetation as the mother. The youngster can cling onto tree branches by six months and by eight to nine months can fend for itself, although many mothers and offspring stay together for two or more years after the birth. Sexual maturity is reached at three and a half years for females, and five years for males. 



Sloths can stand on their feet, but they cannot walk, and crawling is a laborious task. They spend most of their time hanging upside in trees. Almost everything they do—including eating, sleeping, mating and giving birth—is done from an upside down position while hanging from a tree branch. Two exceptions to this are urination, which occurs only during a rain shower to mask the odour from predators, and defecation. Another reason a sloth will descend from a tree is to go for a swim. Sloths are very slow moving animals, whether in a tree or on the ground, and they sleep up to 18 hours per day. Females can often be found in groups, while males tend to be solitary.



Loss of habitat poses a major threat to two-toed sloths. Two-toed sloths are listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN, which means that there is insufficient data concerning their abundance and/or distribution to classify them as threatened. 



Two-toed Sloth Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US