SLOTHS
Southern two-toed sloth
Choloepus didactylus
RANGE

The southern two-toed sloth ranges through Venezuela (the delta and south of the Río Orinoco) and the Guianas (French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname) south into Brazil (Maranhão state west along the Rio Amazonas/Solimões) and west into the upper Amazon Basin of Ecuador and Peru. Its southern limit in the western Amazon of Brazil is unclear. It occurs in the southern departments of Colombia, with its northern limit being the departments of Meta and Guainía. It ranges from sea level up to 2,438 m asl (Britton, 1941).


DESCRIPTION

This arboreal mammal has nocturnal and solitary habits. Its general appearance is very similar to C. hoffmanni. The color of its pelage varies geographically from brown or mocha to very pale or almost whitish. The head is round, sometimes of a lighter color than the body. The prominent ears are hidden in the fur, and the face bears a brown, hairless, protuberant snout. Unlike C. hoffmanni, the throat and chest are uniformly colored, while the shoulders and legs are darker colored than the body. The palms are brown and hairless. The anterior, caniniform teeth are long, triangular and sharp. The forelimbs are long and bear two digits with long claws. The hindlimbs have three digits and are shorter than the forelimbs. Two-toed sloths lack a prominent tail.

HABITAT

This sloth species is found in tropical moist lowland and montane forest.

BIOLOGY

Two-toed sloths have nocturnal and solitary habits. Gestation length seems to be approximately ten months (Eisenberg and Maliniak, 1985) but estimates are quite variable. Males and females reach sexual maturity at approximately two years of age. Longevity in captive conditions is at least 18 years.
In Suriname, C. didactylus has been found at densities of 0.9 animals per hectare (Taube et al., 1999). In the Brazilian Amazon, estimated densities range from 0.13 individuals per hectare (Manaus region) to 0.88 animals per hectare in the flooded forests (Mamirauá Reserve; Queiroz, 1995; Chiarello, 2008).

THREATS

There are no major threats to C. didactylus. Because they are usually found high in the canopy, motionless and virtually invisible, they are not as commonly hunted as armadillos or tamanduas, and there are taboos against their consumption by some native groups. They are probably hunted opportunistically, but there is no serious bushmeat trade.

CONSERVATION

The southern two-toed sloth is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, its occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a threatened category. It is present in many protected areas.

REFERENCES

Additional information and a complete list of references can be found in: Superina, M., T. Plese, N. Moraes-Barros and A.M. Abba (2010): The 2010 Sloth Red List Assessment. Edentata 11(2): 115-134. This article is available here.

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