They are solitary animals, pairing only long enough to mate. The mother bears one infant at a time, and carries it clinging to her belly for up to a year as it learns the ways of the sloth.
Rather than "nature mistake", this highly specialized mammal could scarcely be better adapted for life in the treetops.
Classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the maned three-toed sloth, endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, is the rarest of all sloth species. The species were once extensively hunted by humans for meat, causing a drastic decline in population numbers. But now, their main threats come from loss of habitat due to deforestation, land clearance for agriculture, the wildlife trade and urbanisation.
Maned sloths feed on the leaves of a very limited number of tree canopies, all of which are now becoming increasingly rare. Eucalyptus plantations, which require large sections of forest to grow, are resulting in the destruction of the vital trees that sloths rely on. According to Brazilian nature reserve Reserva Zoobotanica Do Bicho Preguia, analysis of blood samples from maned sloths living close to eucalyptus plantations, show signs of malnutrition and low levels of genetic variability. When forests are destroyed to make room for eucalyptus plantations, sloths instinctively cling to the trees until they are cut down. Once the trees collapse to the ground, sloths are vulnerable to starvation, predators and wildlife traders. Habitat loss and the fragmentation of forests also makes sloths vulnerable to the illegal wildlife trade, which is driven by international demand for exotic pets. Every year hundreds of baby sloths are stolen from their mothers by poachers who either find them in deforested areas or buy them from children who rescued the sloths from destroyed areas of forest. The maned sloths are then taken to holding facilities where they are mistreated, living in inadequate conditions and being denied the nourishment they need to survive.
The Reserva Zoobotanica Do Bicho Preguia nature reservation, which cares specifically for maned sloths, helps rescue the slow-moving mammals from wildlife traders and from heavily deforested areas. The animals are then cared for and fully nourished back to good health before eventually being reintroduced into protected areas of the Atlantic Forest. This reservation is just one of a number of initiatives in Brazil helping to secure a future for maned three-toed sloths.
How can you help?
Visit the sloth sancuary in Costa Rica and adopt a sloth, donate something on their wish list, send money, and let others know about the danger to sloths. Support groups that help preseve the rainforest. Let your voice be heard, let's never turn the page in our newspaper only to find the last sloth has perished. http://www.slothrescue.com/how_to_help/wish_list.html#
Extinction - forever It doesn't need to end that way.