Featured species: Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)

Lets recall from our previous feature on the Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
that sloths are mammals of the order Pilosa. They are arboreal, inhabit the jungles of Central and South America, and most of their diet consist of tree leaves but they also eat fruits and flowers.

In Panama we can find three species of sloths:
  • Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
  • Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
  • Pygmy Three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas.

Captured at low level of forest, going up after defecating in the ground

The Brown-throated (Three-toed) Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) is the most common of the four species of three-toed sloths, and is found in the forests of South and Central America. It is found from Honduras in the north, through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama into Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and eastern Peru. It is found in many different kinds of environments, including evergreen and dry forests and in highly perturbed natural areas. It is generally found from sea level to 1,200 m (3,900 ft), although some individuals have been reported from much higher elevations. It's very common in Panama's forests and apparently one of their favourite trees are some species of Guarumos (Cecropia sp.). 

Here you can clearly see the 3 claws on the forelimb of this female

As mentioned above, in Panama the brown-throated sloth overlaps range with Hoffmann's two-toed sloth. We can differentiate them because the three-toed sloth tends to be smaller and more numerous than its relative, being more active in moving through the forest and maintaining more diurnal activity. It has grayish-brown to beige-color fur over the body, with darker brown fur on the throat, the sides of the face, and the forehead. The face is generally paler in color, with a stripe of very dark fur running beneath the eyes. Also, as their names imply, they differ in the number of toes/claws in the forelimb (3 vs 2).


Brown-throated sloths sleep 15 to 18 hours every day and are active for only a few brief periods, which may be during either the day or night. Although they can walk along the ground, and even swim, they spend most of their lives in the high branches of trees, descending once every eight days or so to defecate in the soil. Adult animals are solitary, except when raising young.

Brown-throated sloths inhabit the high canopy of the forest, where they eat young leaves from a wide range of different trees. They do not travel far, with a typical, 5 hectare (12-acre) range, a brown-throated sloth will visit around 40 trees, and may specialise on one particular species, even spending up to 20% of its time in a single specific tree.

Jaguars and harpy eagles are among the few natural predators of the brown-throated sloth. While yellow-headed caracara has been observed to forage for small invertebrates in the fur of the sloths, apparently without the sloth being disturbed.

The female of the species is known to emit a loud, shrill scream during the mating season to attract males. Its cry sounds like "ay ay", much like that of a woman screaming. The male can be identified by a black stripe surrounded by orange fur on its back between the shoulders, females lack that spot.