Featured species: Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
During our search of the Common Potoo at the Parque Natural Metropolitano, we were able to meet a Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), face to face. These are moments when we wish we had a shorter lens with us besides the 500mm. Disregarding the lack of a wider angled lense we made our best efforts to capture the moment, procuring excellent close ups of this beautiful animal.
Sloths are mammals of the order Pilosa and related to anteaters, which sport a similar set of specialized claws. They are arboreal and inhabit the jungles of Central and South America, they are known for being slow-moving, hence named "sloths" which means lazy. The sloths' taxonomic suborder is Folivora, "leaf-eaters" derived from Greek. As expected, most of their diet consist of tree leaves but they also eat fruits and flowers.
This species in particular is found in two separate regions of Central and South America, separated by the Andes. It inhabits tropical forests from sea level to 3,300 m (10,800 ft) above sea level, and usually found in the rainforest canopy in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. They are differentiated from three-toed sloths, as the names implies, in the number of toes/claws in the forelimb (2 vs 3), while all sloths have three toes/claws on the hindlimb. In Panama it shares range with the Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) but the Two-toed Sloths are larger, faster, usually with longer coat, and lacks dark shoulder and face markings.
Two-toed sloths spend most of their time in trees, though they may travel on the ground to move to a new tree. As a matter of fact we found this female individual moving down to ground level and then at low level of forest, hanging on and moving through lianas, presumably searching for a new tree.
Sloths make a good habitat for other organisms, and a single sloth may be home to moths, beetles, cockroaches, ciliates, fungi, and algae. Can you spot some of these residents on the picture above?
They often move slowly through the canopy and spend much of the time sleeping in tangles of lianas. They are solitary in the wild, and, aside from mothers with young, it is unusual for two to be found in a tree at the same time.
Then we had to move backwards to be able to capture a full body shot while this girl was going up again. We were able to show the sloth to several tourists that were walking nearby but, unfortunately, we had no more time to spend and had to finish the photo session.
In regards to their conservation status, it appears that there are no major threats to the species at a global level. Nevertheless, subpopulations in Colombia and Central America, are declining due to severe habitat degradation and fragmentation. Furthermore, they are hunted by indigenous communities as a protein source, and sold as pets in Colombia.