Southern two-toed Sloth

(Choloepus didactylus)


Southern two-toed Sloth IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The two-toed sloth has a head-body length of 46 to 86 cm, and its body weight ranges from 4.1 to 9 kgs. The fur is long, coarse, and wavy, the hairs are brown with cream tips, looking variegated. The face has often the same colour as the body, the legs are often darker brown. There are two long claws on the fore feet, and three on the hind feet.


Two-toed sloths are nocturnal and solitary. Their diet consists of leaves, twigs, and fruit. They spend their lives essentially hanging upside down in trees: eating, sleeping, mating, and even giving birth in an upside down position, but they descend to the ground level to defecate. Because their body is designed to hang upside down, they are physically incapable of truly walking; they basically crawl when on the ground, usually on the way from one tree to another. They can, however, swim extremely well. Another adaptation to life upside down is that their hair has a natural part on their belly (as opposed to their back) that allows water, in frequent rainstorms, to run off.


Sloths have an extremely slow metabolism and have the lowest variable body temperature of any mammal. Unlike most mammals, their body temperature and metabolism will fluctuate throughout the day according to environmental temperatures - ranging from 24 to 33 degrees Celsius. Because of their slow metabolism, it is necessary for sloths to defecate and urinate only once a week.


Two-toed sloths are more aggressive than their three-toed cousins. They can bite and will defend themselves by slashing with the foreclaws.


Males become sexually mature at an age of about 4.5 years, females one year earlier. After a gestation period of 5-6 month the female gives birth to one single offspring. In the wild, two-toed sloths may reach an age of 15 to 20 years, in zoos more than 30 years are possible.

Did you know?
that the two-toed sloth has a very unusual symbiotic relationship with algae? It has specialized hair that encourages algae growth, which aids in camouflaging the animal. It is also believed that the sloth will eat some of the algae and, interestingly, it will absorb some of the nutrients from the algae through its skin.


Name (Scientific) Choloepus didactylus
Name (English) Southern two-toed Sloth
Name (French) Le paresseux à deux doigts ou Unau
Name (German) Zweifingerfaultier, Unau
Name (Spanish) Perezoso de dos dedos
Local names Brazil: Preguiça real, Unau
Colombia:Perico ligero
Peru: Pelejo
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Dave Pape



Range Central America and northern South America
Habitat Tropical forest canopies
Wild population Unknown, but listed as Least Concern (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 227 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Southern two-toed Sloth


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 75 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Dave Pape

Why do zoos keep this animal

The two-toed sloth is currently not threatened with extinction. Both, Linnaeus's and Hoffmann's two toed sloth are relatively frequently kept by zoos because they are of major educational interest and are good ambassador species for its habitat, the threatened neotropical rainforests.


In North America and Europe, coordinated breeding programmes are implemented with a view of maintaining self-sustaining zoo populations of both species.


In range countries zoos may keep the species for animal welfare reasons as they may accept caring for injured or orphaned individuals.