Linnaeus’s Two-Toed Sloth

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Choloepus didactylus

DIETLeaves, twigs, fruit

RANGENorthern South America, including Peru and Brazil

HABITATStrictly arboreal, live in the upper canopy of trees in the rainforest

Linnaeus’s Two-Toed Sloth

NOTE: Education Animals are “behind-the-scenes” animals & only appear to the public during Educational events. This includes scheduled events or programs such as daily animal mingles, private onsite programs, and zoo reaches. For more information, please reach out to edureservations@lvzoo.org.

Program and General Information

Two toed sloths are arboreal mammals that live most of their time in the trees. They can be found throughout parts of Central and South America’s rainforests. They are herbivores, meaning they mainly eat leaves and fruit. In the wild, sloths can live 10-15 years old. In captivity, sloth can live over 30 years. Unfortunately, sloths’ habitat is being destroyed from excessive logging. You can help by buying sustainable products that help the rainforest to continue to grow.

Common Physical Features

Two-toed sloths can be 21-29 inches long, weighing 8.8 lbs-17.6 lbs. Unlike most animals, their brownish-gray fur grows from their stomach to their back. This allows rain to run off their bodies as they hang from trees. They have long curved claws that allow them to hang from and move across branches. Their backs may appear green due to symbiotic algae growth. This green tint helps camouflage these animals from predators. They are known for their extremely slow movement, only moving at approximately 6-8 feet a minute.

Habitat and Global Range

They’re strictly arboreal. They live in the upper canopy of trees in the rainforests of Central America and the northern part of South America, including Peru and Brazil

Diet

Sloths are herbivorous, meaning they only eat plant material. In the wild, they are known to eat leaves, twigs, and fruit. At the Lehigh Valley Zoo, our sloth eats special Vitamin pellets, assorted fruits (like apples), and vegetables (like lettuce and carrots).

Behavior and Life Cycle

Their sense of smell is well developed, evident by the use of scent marking by males. Males scent mark on tree branches via glands surrounding the anus. The purpose of scent marking is to establish a meeting place with the females so that mating can occur. The female may also vocalize via a high-pitched scream to advertise to males she is ready to mate. These sloths are generally silent but have been known to hiss in times of high stress or when agitated. Separation of an infant from its mother will elicit a loud low-pitched distress call ranging from 30 to 90 seconds. Tactile communication has been observed in the form of grooming between infant and mother. This is a mutual behavior and involves licking the head, face, and anogenital region.

Males are solitary, females can be found in groups. Females will give birth to a single young after a 10 month gestation. Mothers will carry their young for up to nine months after birth, but the young obtain the strength to move on their own after 5 weeks. Females reach sexual maturity at 3 years old, males at 4-5 years old. Although they spend most of their time up in trees, they are also skilled swimmers. This skill is very helpful for traveling across rivers or streams that are commonly found in their wet habitat.

They will live about 10-15 years in the wild and over 30 years in captivity.

Fun Facts

  • They will occasionally climb down trees to defecate. Rarely, they may climb down to give birth or mate.
  • The sloth’s internal organs, including stomach, spleen, and liver, are located in different areas due to their upside-down lifestyle.
  • Sloths have a four chambered stomach so they have a very slow metabolism, which means they will only defecate about once a week.
  • Sleep 15 hours a day, wake up at night to eat
  • Related to armadillos and anteaters (all in family Pilosa)

Conservation Messaging

Sloths are found in the rainforests of Central and South America. Unfortunately, their habitat is getting destroyed due to excessive logging. Human encroachment is also an issue. Sloths and their fellow rainforest animals are being driven out of their homes. Humans will also poach sloths for their fur.

One way you can help is by buying sustainable products. For example, coffee and chocolate both come from the rainforest. You can purchase these products from good companies like Fair Trade Coffee and Rainforest Alliance.

Another way you can help is by limiting the amount of waste you accumulate. See if you can reuse something before you throw it away. If we all do this, the demand for resources found in the rainforest may decrease, helping to preserve the sloths’ one and only home.