Pygmy Sloth Conservation Project
|Pygmy Three-Toed Sloths are classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the Red List of Threatened Species™ (version 2021-3)|
Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) – Critically Endangered*
The Pygmy Three-toed Sloth is only one of four members in the three-toed sloth genus, Bradypus.
- They can only be found on a single small island, 18km off the coast of Panama, called Escudo de Veraguas.
- Their island is only about 4.3 km2 in size, and has been separated from the mainland for 9,000 years.
- The last official population count identifying only 79 individuals in 2012, however recent data is indicating there may be only 48 left!
- They are tree-dwelling; its curved claws helping to keep a strong grip on tree branches.
- They are approximately 30-40% smaller than their mainland counterparts, averaging around 3kg in weight, and are about 24 inches long.
- They also have extra neck vertebrae which allows them to turn their heads some 270 degrees.
- They are most commonly found inhabiting and feeding from Red Mangrove thickets.
- At night they eat leaves, shoots and fruit from the trees, getting almost all of their water from this.
- However, Red Mangrove trees are often logged and now only constitute 0.024% of the total island area (1.67 ha).
- Although they are slow moving in trees, with at a ‘top speed’ of 0.24 kph (0.15 mph), Three-toed Sloths are agile swimmers!
- Three-toed sloth babies cling to their mothers and travel by hanging on to them for the first nine months of their lives.
- The green algae found in the fur of the pygmy three-toed sloth is a unique species of Trichophilus algae which is thought to be symbiotic, providing camouflage to the sloth at no detriment to the sloth’s health.
Primary threats: Humans – habitat destruction by uncontrolled tourism, and a Dutch/Panamanian Tourist Resort development, and logging of the red mangroves.
About Pygmy Sloth Conservation Project
The Pygmy Sloth Conservation Project was established in 2011. It is supported by many institutions, such as the IUCN SSC Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Group; ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme; and Nurtured by Nature.
Led by the Panamanian researcher Diorene Smith Cabellos, this program includes three components: research, education, and applied conservation. Long-term monitoring and studies of the Pygmy sloth population are key to understanding the biology and ecology of the species, which is fundamental to maximize conservation efforts.
With the help of indigenous authorities and island inhabitants, the education program creates awareness for the conservation of this charismatic species and seeks to find sustainable ways to use the island’s resources. Capacity building is another important part of the conservation project to ensure its long-term effectiveness.
The next step will be to develop and implement a conservation plan for Pygmy sloths and their habitat. If you would like to know more about pygmy sloths and support the Pygmy Sloth Conservation project, we invite you to visit www.pygmysloth.org.
[* current IUCN Red List Category]
(photos by Pygmy Sloth Conservation Project)
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