AboutZoos, Since 2008


Pygmy Three-​toed Sloth on the brink of extinction

pub­lished 24 May 2012 | mod­i­fied 26 May 2012

The pygmy three-​toed sloth (Brady­pus pyg­maeus) is one of the world’s most endan­gered mam­mals, accord­ing to the first ever for­mal sur­vey of the pop­u­la­tion, which found less than 100 sloths hang­ing on in their island home.

Only described by researchers in 2001, the pygmy sloth lives on the small unin­hab­ited island of Escudo de Ver­aguas, 17 km off the coast of main­land Panama. But human impacts, such as defor­esta­tion of the island’s man­groves, may be push­ing the species to extinction.
ARKive photo - Pygmy three-toed sloth

Very lit­tle is known about this species. We’ve col­lected data for the first time to get an accu­rate pic­ture of how many pygmy sloths are left in the world
David Cur­nick, Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of London »

This species only feeds on red man­grove trees which cover around 1.5 sq km of the island. Pygmy three-​toed sloths rely on cam­ou­flage to help them avoid pre­da­tion, but this is not enough to hide them from the humans that have ven­tured onto the island in more recent times.

One of the biggest threats to the pygmy three-​toed sloth is the destruc­tion of their man­grove habi­tat, and because of this more than 80% of the pop­u­la­tion has been lost just in the last decade. If addi­tional devel­op­ment was car­ried out to sup­port a larger human pop­u­la­tion on the island then the sloths would be in even more danger.

An expe­di­tion of the Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don (ZSL) to the island in March this year has esti­mated that there are now less than 100 indi­vid­u­als left on Escudo, so urgent inter­ven­tion is needed to pro­tect them from extinction.

There­fore the Evo­lu­tion­ar­ily Dis­tinct & Glob­ally Endan­gered project (EDGE) of ZSL started the urgent cam­paign to raise funds to increase law enforce­ment within the reserve and invest in long-​term edu­ca­tional pro­grammes for local com­mu­ni­ties and schools to increase aware­ness about pygmy three-​toed sloths and ulti­mately stop poach­ing and habi­tat loss.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at EDGE and Mongabay. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.

(Sources: EDGE-​blog; Mongabay, 24.05.2012)

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