- Class: Mammalia
- Family: Bradypodidae
- Genus: Bradypus
- Species: Bradypus Pygmaeus
- Status: Decreasing
The pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) is the world's smallest sloth and a member of the genera of three-toed sloths. It is endemic to a single, small island off the coast of Panama, Isla Escudo de Veraguas, which has an area of approximately 4.3 square kilometers.
This sloth lives in and feeds off primarily coastal red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). This habitat is being chopped down by local fishermen who use the mangrove as fuel, says Bryson Voirin, expert sloth biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. There are fewer than 100 sloths hanging on for survival. Let's save the pygmy sloth!
Why are they in danger?
The main threat to these sloths is habitat destruction. Their island, nearly covered by mangrove trees, is home to two other unique and critically endangered species: the neotropical fruit bat (Artibeus incomitatus) and the maritime worm salamander (Oedipina maritima). The island remains largely unexplored, though, so very little is known about its wildlife.
According to Voirin, around 25% of the mangrove forests have been cut down, likely by fishermen who come over from the mainland to camp out on the island for a few weeks and burn the mangroves into charcoal for their campfires. I want to alert everyone that such logging of mangroves may not only cause the sloth's extinction, but also that of other animals that live on this island.
How can we save them?
Everyone must understand that logging mangroves threatens the island and its wildlife. One alternative is to supply those people who camp out on this island with natural gas camp stoves to cook with instead of charcoal from mangroves, a source of energy that harms the island environment.
What makes them unique?
- The pygmy three-toed sloth is endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas, part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama.
- They were not recognized as a distinct species until 2001.
- The three-toed pygmy is the smallest sloth in the world.
- They are surprisingly excellent swimmers and can rotate their head 270 degrees without moving the rest of the body.
- Sloths have an unusual form of camouflage: colonies of algae coat their fur and tint it green to blend into their arboreal habitat.
- This sloth's hair grows in the opposite direction of most animals, as an adaptation to drip-dry while hanging upside down after a swim amongst the mangroves.
- Mongobay. (2010) Forgotten species. [online] 2010. Available at http://es.mongabay.com/news/2010/es0316-hance_fs_pygmythree.html [Accessed: 7 September 2013]
- ZSL. (2012) In search of the pygmy sloth. [online] 2012. Available at http://www.zsl.org/conservation/news/in-search-of-the-pygmy-sloth,960,NS.html [Accessed: 20 September 2013]
- Red List. (2011) The Three Toed Sloth. [online] 2011. Available athttp://www.iucnredlist.org/details/61925/0. [Accessed: 23 August 2013]
Written by Sofía González