The three-toed sloths are tree-living mammals from South and Central America. They are the only members of the genus Bradypus and the family Bradypodidae. There are four living species of three-toed sloths. These are the Brown-throated Sloth, the Maned Sloth, the Pale-throated Sloth, and the Pygmy Three-toed Sloth.
Three-toed Sloths are most abundant in the Carribean low-lands, especially in Cahuita NP and the nearby Cahuita vicinity. They can be seen along canals of Tortuguero NP, in Cecropia trees just east of Guapiles along the main highway from Guapiles to Limon, in the Central Park at Limon, and along the highway from Limon to Cahuita.
There is a myth that sloths eat only Cecropia leaves, but they actually eat leaves from at least ninety-six trees and vines. Since sloths are often in dense foliage, they are not usually seen except in sparsely branched trees like Cecropia.
In addition, three-toed sloths are less social than other species, preferring to feed, sleep, and travel alone rather than in groups. Males and females probably only pair for mating, and a one to one sex ratio has been observed in the wild (Nowak, 1991). There is usually only a single young after a gestation period of 5-6 months, and while the offspring will no longer nurse after about one month, it still relies on its mother for another five (Nowak, 1991).
The coat of Bradypus consists of two types of hair, the first a short fine fur and the other long, thick guard hairs that are grooved and appear to encourage algal growth. As with Choloepus, Nowak (1991) suspects that the algae provides camouflage to the sloth as well as nutrients.
It is common to see the Three-Toed Sloth hanging upside down on the lower limbs of the trees. Sometimes they do move up to the canopy area for safety and food.
The greenish coloring on the Three-Toed Sloth comes from the algae that derive from the trees. It is really a light brown or light black color. They have very sharp claws designed for climbing and hanging. They are about 18-23 inches long, and weigh from 8 to10 pounds when fully mature.
Three-toed sloths also have an advantage that few other mammals possess: They have extra neck vertebrae that allows them to turn their heads some 270 degrees.
The three-toed sloth emits a long, high-pitched call that echoes through the forests as "ahh-eeee." Because of this cry these sloths are sometimes called ais (pronounced "eyes").
Famous for its slow movements the pygmy three-toed sloth is ideally suited to life in the mangroves and is surprisingly good at swimming. The major threat to the pygmy three-toed sloth is habitat destruction which is reducing the size of its already small habitat.
The pygmy three-toed sloth was only recognised as a distinct species in 2001. It can only be found on Isla Escudo de Veraguas which has been separated from mainland Panama for 9,000 years.