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The Three-Fingered Sloth

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Photos by Delon Greaves

Published: 18th of January, 2023 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: May 1, 2023 at 19:06 pm

Cover photo shows a three-fingered sloth, also called three-toed sloth, crossing the road, taken along the Lethem-Linden Trail in January, 2023.

According to the Sloth Conservation Society, there are 4 living species of three-fingered sloths, all of which live within the forests of Central and South America where the tropical climate maintains relatively warm temperatures all year round.

The 4 species include:

  • Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
  • Pygmy sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus)
  • Pale throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)
  • Maned sloth (Bradypus torquatus)

The animal in the photos on this page appears to be an example of the pale throated sloth. Pale-throated sloths live in the rainforests of northern South America, ranging from French Guiana to Suriname and Colombia. They are of similar size and weight to the brown-throated sloth; however, they boast a large bright yellow face, white throat, and mottled fur. Like other three-fingered sloths, they have just five teeth on their upper jaw and four on their lower jaw which is small and rounded. There is very little research into the biology or ecology of this species.

The pale-throated sloths are perhaps the most striking of all the sloth species, with a large bright yellow face, white throat, and mottled fur, and yet they also receive the least attention.

While the maned sloths and pygmy sloths are famous for their critically endangered conservation status, and the brown-throated sloths are the most commonly seen species, the pale-throated sloths have slipped under the radar for decades.

They have also bypassed the attention of the scientific community, with not a single scientist currently researching any aspect of their ecology or behavior. With this in mind, SloCo Founder and Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Cliffe and award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Estzterhae embarked on a mission to locate and photograph the pale-throated sloths in order to shine a spotlight on the plight of this mysterious species.

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