There are two-toed sloths and there are three-toed sloths, the case being determined by the forepaws of the animals, since all sloths have three claws on their hind paws. Sloth is a highly intriguing creature. Its only real habit is indolence. It sleeps or rests on average twenty hours a day. The sloth is at busiest at sunset, using the word busy here in the most relaxed sense. It moves along the bough of a tree in its characteristic upside down position at the speed of roughly 400 meters an hour. On the ground, it crawls to its next tree at the rate of 250 metres an hour, when motivated, which is 440 times slower than a motivated cheetah. Unmotivated, it covers four to five metres in an hour.
The three-toed sloth is not well informed about the outside world. On a scale of 2 to 10, where 2 represents unusual dullness and 10 extreme acuity, Beebe (1926) gave the sloth’s senses of taste, touch, sight and hearing a rating of 2, and its sense of smell a rating of 3. If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. Beebe reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloth elicited little reaction. And the sloth’s slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but Bullock (1968) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to decayed branches “often”.
How does it survive, you might ask.
Precisely by being so slow. Sleepiness and slothfulness keep it out harm’s way, away from the notice of jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles and anacondas. A sloth’s hair shelter an algae that is brown during the dry season and green during the wet season, so the animal blends in with the surrounding moss and foliage and looks like a nest of white ants or of squirrels, or like nothing at all but part of a tree.
The three-toed sloth lives a peaceful, vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment. “A good natured smile is forever on its lips,” reported Tirler (1966). See below.
The three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.
(taken from Life of Pi (Yann Martel) p. 3-5)
My personal take on the description above is sloths know how to enjoy life. Get enough rest (a good rest is never too much ;-)), wake up for the best time of the day – the sunset, lead a worry-free life (who cares about noises or disturbances when you’re having your meal/sleep?). Falling off the branches? Well, they get to do extra physical exercise. No biggie. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way 🙂 Being modest, never showy or gregarious keeps them from getting preyed upon. They live life as it is. For all the goodness there is.