Inhabitants of the Canopy.. THE 3-TOED SLOTH

When we ask our visitors which is the animal you would like to see the most on your trip, among the top choices has to be the sloth. Being a unique creature to the Neotropics, a visit to the protected areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon is a great opportunity to see the Sloth in its natural habitat. For many of you, Sloths might seem just lazy and funny looking but there’s a little more to know about them before making that judgment.
The 3-toed Sloth is the slower of the sloth species living in Ecuador and the one most frequently encountered in our trips probably because is day & night active unlike the 2-Toed Sloth which is mostly night active.  Still finding them is not an easy task, they are not uncommon, actually studies suggest that there’s an average of 6 or 7 sloths per hectare (2.2 acres) but their camouflage make them almost impossible to spot. Their hair resembles the color of the bark of the trees that they feed on, besides that they can also grow microscopic algae on their hair making them look exactly like the foliage. However they always need to be active at least a few hours every day to eat and just like their main predator the Harpy Eagle take advantage of the opportunity, it is also our best chance to see them in action.
Their diet includes leaves from certain species of trees and of course leaves from the rainforest are difficult to digest because of the high concentration of chemical compounds that they have that’s why they are so slow and have to spend most part of the day sleeping through this digestion process. The 3-Toed Sloth is perfectly adapted to its life in the canopy, for an animal of 60 cm (2 ft) it’s quite light, its 3 impressive claws allow him to pass easily from branch to branch. Its face resembles a happy animal, in appearance always smiling and unlike others it can move its head 270° to either side because he has 8 or 9 cervical vertebrae while most mammals have only 7.
As a guide I can tell you that few things equal the excitement of seeing one of these creatures crossing our way while exploring the Amazon Rainforest.. Our visits to the Yasuni National Park, Limoncocha Biological Reserve and specially Panacocha Protected Forest are always unpredictable and hold surprises like this.
Milton Avalos
Naturalist Guide Manatee Amazon Explorer

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