Sloths can be found in Central America and northern South America. However, if you’ve set your heart on seeing one in the wild, your best bet is to head to Costa Rica or Brazil. The cute creatures can often be seen hanging out in the rainforests or occasionally having a paddle in a river. Did you know sloths can swim three times faster than they can walk on land?!
It’s a good idea to pack binoculars if you’re looking for sloths, as they spend the majority of their lives in forest canopies. They only descend once a week to relieve themselves or, on rare occasions, to find more food or to mate. Sloths are much safer in the trees as they can stay camouflaged and hidden from predators such as jaguars and eagles.
Let’s take a look at where you’re likely to increase your chances of seeing sloths. We’ll talk you through which areas have large sloth populations and the different species that you may see.
Where To See Sloths In Costa Rica?
The best places to see sloths in Costa Rica are in some of its national parks, such as Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, and Corcovado National Park. You’re more likely to see sloths on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, as well as in the central and southern Pacific regions.
Sloths like areas that have consistent rainfall and are densely forested. You might have to go trekking in the rainforest if you want to increase your chance of seeing a sloth. The sloths thrive in Costa Rica as over half of the land is forested. This means the sloths can hang out in the trees, munching leaves and having nice long naps.
Some regions have trees that are largely spread out. The branches rarely overlap or connect. While monkeys and other species can jump between trees, this isn’t possible for sloths. They need to descend from the canopy and crawl to neighboring trees. While doing so, the sloths can often be seen crossing roads or hanging from isolated trees.
Costa Rica is home to many wildlife sanctuaries, including some specializing in sloths. One is the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, based near the city of Cahuita. It’s Costa Rica’s first sloth sanctuary, having been found by a husband and wife team in 1997. The sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured or orphaned sloths back into the wild.
How Many Sloths Are There?
Brazil has a sloth population of around 207 million, which is the highest population of sloths anywhere in the world. The animals are spread out over an area of 3.2 million miles²
(5.4 million km²). 62% of the country is forested, which is a perfect environment for sloths.
The world’s second-largest population of sloths is in Columbia. The area is 59% covered in forests, which is ideal for the country’s 48 million sloths. Peru has 32 million sloths, which are spread out over an area of 496,000 miles²(798,235 km²).
While Costa Rica is only home to five million sloths, they are spread over an area of just 20,000 miles²(32,187 km²). This means you have a good chance of seeing a sloth in the country as the population is more dense. Just 750,000 sloths are found in Guyana, although 77% of it is covered in forests.
What Are The Different Sloth Species?
There are six species of sloth, as detailed below. We’ve also included the countries and regions that each species is found in.
Pygmy three-toed sloth
Also known as the ‘monk sloth’ or the dwarf sloth’, this species is Critically Endangered. They are endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas, which is a small island off the Caribbean coast of Panama. The sloths are only found in the red mangroves of the island, in an area of just 1.7 miles²(4.3 square km²).
The maned sloth is endemic to the states of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia in southeastern and northeastern Brazil. They live in the Atlantic coastal rainforest, which covers an area of 124,402 mi² (200,205 km²). This species is classified as Vulnerable.
The pale-throated sloth is found in the tropical rainforests in northern South America. This includes Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and eastern Venezuela. They are also found north of the Amazon River in Brazil.
The brown-throated sloth is the most widely distributed species of sloth. They are found in the Neotropical realm of Central and South America. The species thrives in the Amazon Rainforest, the largest forest in the world.
Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth
This species of sloth is found in South America. It lives in Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana. You can also see the species in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. As with the pale-throated sloth, you can also find it in Brazil, north of the Amazon River.
Hoffman’s two-toed sloth
Hoffman’s two-toed sloths (northern two-toed sloths) are found in Central and South America. They typically inhabit tropical rainforests that range from sea level to 10,800 feet (3,300 m) above sea level. One population is found in eastern Honduras and western Ecuador. The second population is found in the east of Peru, western Brazil, and northern Bolivia.
Are sloths Endangered?
Only two of the six sloth species are endangered. The pygmy three-toed sloth is Critically Endangered, while the maned three-toed sloth is Vulnerable. It’s estimated there are less than 100 pygmy three-toed sloths, and there could be anywhere from 100 to 200 maned three-toed sloths.
The main reason for declining sloth numbers is deforestation. Due to the reduced number of forest cover, sloths are forced to descend to the ground. This leaves them vulnerable to predators, cars, and poaching.
In an attempt to travel from one tree to another, sloths may use power lines. Unfortunately, this often leads to electrocution and death. Over half the electrocuted animals in Costa Rica are sloths, and the mortality rate is 70%. Campaigners hope to prevent this by burying the power lines underground or insulating the existing power lines.
It would be best if you headed to South and Central America for your best chance at seeing sloths in the wild. Costa Rica is particularly famous for its sloths, although Brazil and Columbia have the largest sloth populations.
Sloths prefer densely populated forests where the trees overlap. This helps them climb from one branch to another without leaving the canopy’s safety. You might see a sloth or two crawling along the ground in areas where the trees are too spread out.