Is the sloth bear in danger of extinction?

Surely when we mention the sloth bear you can imagine what animal we are talking about, since it is a super charismatic species that attracts all audiences with its peculiarities. Its charisma can actually work against the species, because many people want to have the sloth as a pet, or even in favor, since many others donate funds to organizations that are responsible for its conservation. Specifically on this topic we will develop this post on Green Ecology, the state of conservation of the sloth bear. So is the sloth bear in danger of extinction?

Is the sloth bear in danger of extinction or not?

Before answering the question, we will describe some characteristics of the sloth bear. In general terms, sloths are part of the genus Bradypus , which groups mammalian animals with arboreal habits, whose diet is folivorous, this means that they feed on leaves, although they can sometimes ingest branches or shoots. Because its diet is low in calories, its metabolism is very slow and its movements are too, this is the reason why it is called lazy. Continuing with its characteristics, if you wonder where the sloth bear lives, we can say that all species of the genus are found in Central and South America .

Now, to delve into the question of whether sloths are in danger of extinction or not and have a more precise answer, we must first know that there are 4 species of sloths within the genus Bradypus. The situation of each of these species is different and, therefore, below we will detail the name, the conservation status and the distribution of each of the 4 species of sloths.

Bay sloth

The scientific name of this species is Bradypus variegatus. Its distribution begins in Nicaragua, continuing through Costa Rica and Panama, reaching the vast majority of South American countries, such as Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay. Originally, its distribution reached Argentina, but is currently considered extinct in that country. Regarding its conservation status, it is classified according to the latest IUCN report as Least Concern [1] .

Sloth or light parakeet

This species of sloth, scientifically known as Bradypus tridactylus, is native to the Amazon and Orinoco basins found in Brazil and Venezuela. Its conservation status, like the previous species, is of minor concern [2] .

Collared sloth

This sloth, whose scientific name is Bradypus torquatus , has a very limited distribution. Naturally, it is only found in the Brazilian states of Bahia, Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro. Its conservation status begins to worry scientists since it is classified, according to the IUCN, as vulnerable to extinction and with declining populations [3] .

Pygmy sloth

This particular species of sloth, called Bradypus pygmaeus , is found exclusively on the Escudo de Veraguas island that belongs to Panama. Its conservation status is alarming, it is listed by the IUCN as critically endangered and the number of specimens is declining [4] .

Now that we know those sloth species that are in danger of extinction or vulnerable, we will explain the causes that have put them at risk. It should be clarified that although we mention two species that are not in danger of extinction, that does not mean that they are not vulnerable to the causes that we will explain below, they also affect them.

Habitat loss and fragmentation

Without a doubt, this is the cause that jeopardizes the existence of all species in the world and sloths are not exempt from suffering from it. Remember that sloths inhabit the trees of tropical forests and jungles throughout Latin America. The high rates of deforestation that occur in the region leave sloths exposed, since they have no alternative but to migrate to other areas, which is very difficult for them due to their slow metabolism. This cause not only increases the vulnerability of endangered species, but also of those whose status is least concern. We recommend you read this other related article on the Destruction of the environment and habitat: causes and consequences .

Climate change

Climate change also increases the vulnerability of sloths. Considering that ecosystems are being affected by rising temperatures due to high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, sloths will be forced to migrate and, as we mentioned before, it is not an easy task to have to move around a lot.

Illegal capture and trafficking

Capture and subsequent illegal trafficking is another cause that affects all species of sloths. Due to their charisma and docile demeanor, sloths are highly sought after for pets . In addition to this, to a lesser extent specimens of sloths are captured to use their skin. To learn more about the capture and hunting of exotic animals, you can read these posts about the Causes and consequences of poaching animals and How to avoid poaching animals .

Characteristics of the species

Here we must mainly emphasize the very limited distribution of the collared sloth and the pygmy sloth. Precisely by presenting such a reduced distribution, the populations are small and sometimes cases of inbreeding occur. Therefore, the lack of genetic variability of the populations also increases the vulnerability of the species.

We cannot deny that the sloth situation is worrisome, but fortunately there are small actions in our daily lives that can help to reverse its situation. Let’s see some of them here:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint . With this, you will not only be helping sloths and all the animals on the planet but you will also contribute to mitigating climate change.
  • Don’t encourage illegal trapping and trafficking . How is this? Simple! Avoid promoting the use of sloths as pets or for their fur. You can even report if you know of a case of illegal trafficking.
  • Demand that your country’s politicians ban the deforestation of native forests , which are the habitat of sloths and a great diversity of species.
  • Donate funds to non-profit organizations that care for sloth conservation. Today there are many foundations dedicated to reintroducing sloths into the wild and they often receive donations to carry out these tasks. The positive thing about this initiative is that you can donate funds from anywhere in the world.

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