Two Toes or Three, Costa Rica is Home to the Sweet, Shy Sloth
With their sweet “smiles,” funny faces, sluggish, lazy movements and tendency to hang upside down, sloths are an unusual and fun animal to spot in the wild. Sloths are native to Costa Rica, and while they may be shy and hard to spot, with a little help you may just catch sight of one.
There are two types of sloths in Costa Rica: the two-toed sloth and the three-toed sloth.
The three-toed sloth is the variety visitors are most likely to see. This sloth is diurnal, meaning that it’s active during the day. It spends its time slowly moving from branch to branch — so slowly, in fact, that moss actually grows on its fur, helping it to blend in with the forest canopy.
The three-toed sloth has three curved toes that help it hang on to branches. Its body features long, shaggy, coarse fur that ranges from brown to yellow in color, while its face is white with brown stripes on each side. Three-toed sloths have “smiling,” affable faces, and they are gentle in nature.
The two-toed sloth is nocturnal, spending its days tightly curled up and neatly blending with the rainforest canopy. Its fur is brownish-yellow, it has no stripes on its face, and it features a larger snout than the three-toed sloth. It is also both more aggressive and more social than the three-toed sloth.
Sloths are fussy eaters, and both types of sloths spend their days foraging the choicest leaves from the forest canopy. Diets can vary among individual sloths, as each is taught which leaves to choose by its mother.
Sloths spend about a day in a single tree before moving on to another, and, while they are somewhat social, only one sloth tends to inhabit a single tree at any one time. Mothers spend about six months pregnant with a single baby, and about six months training the baby to forage after it is born.
Sloths are not always easy to spot – they blend in well with the trees, and are very slow-moving. This helps protect them from predators, and from the prying eyes of wildlife-watchers. However, there are several places where you better your chances of seeing one. The best place is the Sloth Sanctuary on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, which has large numbers of both types of sloths. Sloths have also been seen in Corcovado National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park and Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Guides are available for hire at national parks, and they can help ensure that you catch a glimpse of these shy creatures.