The three-fingered sloth: the facts you didn’t know about this impressive mammal

The three-fingered sloth: the facts you didn’t know about this impressive mammal

What’s with the fur? Why do sloths sleep so much? This month, the three-fingered sloth is the animal of the month at Adopt Rainforest. And what’s more fun than hearing from one of the founders of Adopt Rainforest some fun facts that you won’t find in a standard biology book. Maarten van der Beek is one of the biologists at Adopt Rainforest and lives on the Work With Nature reserve in Costa Rica.

How does the sloth get its name?

You’ve probably read in the animal passport that the three-fingered sloth needs 16 hours of sleep a day. Yet they are most active during the day. How about that? The sloth eats leaves from many different trees that are difficult to digest. And yes then you have to rest a lot and sit still for hours to digest the substances found in the leaves, such as cellulose and hard organic substances. Hello lazy lifestyle!

They prefer the young leaves of different trees. The young leaves have few toxins and are more digestible. Are you looking for a sloth in the jungle? Then look for the tree Cecropia Segenis, the sloth’s favorite tree.

No lack of space

Did you know that a sloth only needs a small piece of land to live? They eat and lounge in about 10 to 15 trees that are within a few acres. There are some favorite trees among them where they sit in one tree one day and in another tree the next day. A real tree hugger you might say. Also very smart of them to alternate the trees because that way they wait until fresh leaves have grown on the trees.

The poop story

The sloth has the slowest metabolism of all mammals. A sloth defecates about once a week and it prefers to do so on the ground. They look for their favorite tree and there they climb down from the tree. Why they defecate near their favorite tree is a mystery to scientists! It could be that the sloth uses the poop to provide their favorite tree with new version leaves faster or they use the poop to mark their favorite tree for other sloths. Way to go, this is my favorite spot!

The coat as an ecosystem

Just like mosses live in critters, sloths get algae on their fur. Therefore, you can recognize the sloth by a greenish chamois around their fur. There is also one animal that does not leave sloths alone, and that is a special kind of moth that can only live in a sloth’s fur. When a sloth has young, they sometimes fly to another sloth, but otherwise the moth lives its entire life on the same sloth.

A cool sound during mating season

When it is mating season for the sloths, they make a very distinct sound. It is a bit similar to a human or owl screech. The males try to impress the females with this cool sound. And you know what else is handy? The biologists in our reserve immediately hear how many sloths there are in the area and enjoy the funny sound of the sloths.

Change can do no harm

The sloth is a tolerant species, that is, they can stand disturbance well. In the area they live in, they only need a few trees to survive. Is nature being affected? The sloth will then look for a place with many fast-growing trees, where it can provide itself with food and a place to live.

Protect the Sloth

Worldwide, the rainforest is threatened by humans, including Costa Rica and for the three-fingered sloth. However, do you want this beautiful animal to preserve its habitat? Then it is possible to adopt rainforest. How can this be done? Very easily! For only €2.50 per square meter you protect a piece of nature. Want to read more about protecting the rainforest? Then click here!

Leaf-cutter Ants

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Morpho butterfly in Costa Rica

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Long-term research project with Utrecht University

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Strawberry poison dart frog

By Zoë Schreurs

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Bird Watching in Costa Rica

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The rainy season part 1: Glass frogs

In the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica most rain falls in May to August. The fact that it rains is good for all life of course, but can be quite difficult for our biologists in the Work with Nature reserve; the paths become muddy, the laundry doesn’t dry and the project is sometimes briefly inaccessible because rivers are filling up. (more…)

Special glass frog in the reserve!

Now that student Sonny, a pure night tour specialist, is about to finish his internship, a lot of great discoveries are made at the last minute. To top it all off, last week we found a special glass frog in the reserve. This Hyalinobatrachium dianae – Diane’s Bare-hearted Glass Frog was only discovered and described […]

High time for biodiversity!

High time for biodiversity

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The ceiba tree

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The mantled howler monkey

The mantle howler monkey is one of the largest monkeys in Central America, with males reaching a height of nearly a meter and a weight of up to 10 kg. It is one of 15 species of howler monkeys. Unfortunately, some of those species are endangered, mainly because of habitat loss and capture, for instance […]

Butterflies in Costa Rica

When a butterfly flies by, most people do stop for a moment to follow it with their eyes. They often have beautiful colors and the large soft wings compared to the small body make them look almost cuddly. In Costa Rica there are more than 1200 species of butterflies and of course we are very curious about the species that occur in the reservation of Adopt Rainforest.


Zoë on her wonderful experiences as a volunteer in Costa Rica

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The Hummingbird

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International Census of the Great Green Macaw

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The most special sighting in our reservation so far!

In recent years we have already seen many rare and unusual animals in our reserve such as the Northern Nacked-tailed Armadillo, Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle and several felines. However, what we recently encountered is many times more interesting to scientists. In 1989, Epigomphus houghtoni, the Limon Knobtail, a dragonfly species was described by Stephen Brooks based on […]