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What Do Sloths Eat?

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Although I know some people who might be considered sloths, at least act like them, I have never seen a live sloth. Sloths live in the rainforests of South and Central America. They spend much of their lives just hanging around (again, like some people I know) eating leaves and generally moving slow, very slowly.

Two-toed and Three-toed slothsThe Hoffmann’s two-toed and the pygmy three-toed sloths.

Living up in trees

Sloths have tiny teeth that they use to eat the leaves on the trees where they spent most of their lives. Sloths are not dangerous creatures, meaning that they won’t eat you, however if you get close to one and start antagonizing it, don’t be surprised if they take a swipe at you, but that only makes sense.

Sloth’s diet

Sloths are herbivores but are more accurately described as folivores, meaning they specialize in eating leaves. Other food items in their diet include buds, tender shoots and occasionally fruits. Sloths have been documented eating insects, small reptiles and even birds to supplement their low energy diet. Their favorite trees are Cecropia treesDipteryx panamensis, Sapium caudatum, Terminalia amazonica, Spondius nigrescens, Trattinickia aspera, Chrysophyllum panamensis and Anacardium excelsium. Sloths are entirely nocturnal, meaning they eat at night. For a well fed sloth, up to two-thirds of its body weight consists of content in its stomach. Their digestive system is so slow that it can take up to a month to digest its food. Their defecation and urination occur only once a week.

Two types of Sloths

There are two types of sloth, there is the three-toed sloth and the two-toed sloth. They range in size anywhere between 16 and 27 inches in height. Sloths are herbivores, and their diet consists primarily of leaves although they also are known to eat fruits. If there are new sprouting or shoots, perhaps bugs of plants in the vicinity, they also will eat these as they make their way slowly, very slowly through the jungle rainforests.

They need water too

Sloths are mammals, and they need water to survive. They get their water mainly from the tree leaves that they eat, and remain self sustained in this fashion for their entire lives, which, by the way, are usually approximately 25 to 30 years in length.

They sleep most of the time

Using their large claws, they are usually to be found hanging upside down from trees in the rainforest, sleeping approximately 18 hours a day. Because their metabolism is so slow, Sloths don’t require a lot of food in order to survive. They can remain in an almost suspended state for days at a time.

Unusual fur growth

Unlike many other mammals, the fur on a Sloth grows in the opposite direction than other mammals, mainly due to the fact that they are suspended upside down for such long periods of time, and this helps them to defend themselves against the hostile habitat in their natural surroundings.

Low bowel movement

It is quite possible that the sloth could also be the most constipated of all mammals. This is no joke. Since they have such a slow metabolism, and eat so little, it is rarely needed for them to have a bowel movement. Imagine if you only ate lettuce, hung around all the time without moving, you would more than likely be in a similar situation.

They rarely get eaten

Sloths have one exceptionally good thing going for them. They rarely get eaten. Not only is it illegal in South America to hunt and kill sloths, but for the most part, most people think they are utterly adorable. The only people who eat sloths are the occasional South American rainforest tribesmen, and even those tribesman think they are adorable.

They are an endangered species

The sloth is an endangered species, not because of man, but because other animal predators such as cougars, eagles and other carnivorous creatures. Conservation efforts are on the rise, so hopefully the sloth population will continue to grow in the future.