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.
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.