The Slowpokes


Sloths are slow-moving and peculiar-looking animals found in Central and South America. They have no tail or ears. Their nose is blunt and their teeth look like pegs. Their hair is coarse and long and is usually grayish in color.

Scientists have found that the reason sloths move so slowly is that their body temperature is very low. These animals are able to travel only about a third of a mile an hour. Because of their slow sluggish movements, the word slothful has come into common use to describe a person who is slow and lazy.

When a baby sloth is born, it immediately clings to its mother’s chest and hangs on for dear life. Right after a baby is born, the mother climbs high up in a treetop where they will be safe.

If the tree is skinny, the baby sloth is lucky because it has plenty of room for the ride. But if the tree is large and has many cross branches, the baby must squeeze close or it will be scraped off.

Sloths find all their food in the trees where they live. They like the leaves and fruit of the ymbahuba—a tall exotic tree found from eastern Honduras throughout tropical South America.

Sloths can act quickly if necessary, but they are usually very, very slow. They take a long time to reach out with their sharp claws for food. And they take up to thirty minutes to eat one leaf!

When sloths are not eating, they are probably sleeping. They need up to eighteen hours of sleep a day. If they don’t get enough sleep, their droopy eyelids are likely to close whether they want them to or not. They usually like to sleep curled in the crook of a branch, but even when they’re walking along a branch upside down, they sometimes fall asleep. They don’t fall out of the trees, though, because their antigravity muscles are very strong.

Sloths are wonderful acrobats in trees. When they want to change from one tree to another, they hang on with their back paws and slowly hold both arms out sideways toward the next tree. Then they cautiously move along to the end of the branch, grabbing hold of whatever they can on the neighboring tree.

Sloths don’t have regular homes, and if a storm comes up, that’s fine with them. They might play for awhile, because it’s easier to change trees when the wind is swinging them from side to side. When the rain starts to pour, they hang upside down from branches. They resemble a wasp’s nest in this position, and the rain runs off their fur. This way they stay nice and cozy while they take another snooze!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown