Everything you want to know about Baby Sloths!

Sloths are the cutest thing ever right? Could anything be cuter than a sloth? Well, if sloths normally seem incredibly cute to you, then the only thing that can be cuter are baby sloths! What is life like for a baby sloth? 

We’re going to break things down for you so you know everything about baby sloths, from how baby sloths get made (it’s actually interesting) to how baby sloths get cared for by sloth mothers. But first, here is an amazingly adorable video of baby sloths!


So yes, before there are babies there has to be a little loving, right? Sloths are adorable, but are they sexy? Well, certainly other sloths would think so. Although they are incredibly slow and covered with algae-covered fur, they are strong animals that certainly have intra-specie sex appeal. Usually quite solitary creatures, how does a sloth find the one that it loves?

Well, let’s not forget that there are different types of sloths living in the rainforests of Latin America, and they vary in many ways. Although technically the same type of animal, three-toed sloths and two-toed sloths are distinct species who live their lives in different ways, and while some distinct species, or at least subspecies, of other animals such a bears sometimes interbreed, this isn’t possible for the distinct types of sloths.

Three-toed vs. two-toed sloths

We humans tend to pair up for long periods of time. While this isn‘t always how things work out, generally each human is looking for another human they can spend their entire life with. This is not at all the case for the three-toed sloths, especially in the case of males. 

A male three-toed sloth will mate with many females over his lifetime and produce a lot of offspring with the multiple mates he finds. The females though, generally, don’t seek out multiple males. For the two-toed sloths this is not the case—males and females tend to have similar numbers of mates. One might say that the female two-toed sloth is a bit more empowered than her three-toed counterpart.

Humans are pretty much down-to-fornicate whenever a good potential willing mate is around, regardless of the time or year. Two-toed sloths are like this as well. They live in the tropics where the seasonal changes are not that distinct. So, unlike mammals that live in temperate or cold climates where the birth of a baby should line-up with a time of year when food is easy to find, two-toed sloths mate whenever they are lucky enough to find a suitable parthers.

However, three-toed sloths, like many animals, follow a fairly rigid schedule of mating times. Three-toed sloths mate around the months of August and September and so their babies are almost always born sometime in spring.

Sloths in general are solitary creatures, so when they get the urge (wink, wink, ;) ) they are going to have to work hard to find someone to mate with. There are no nightclubs to try their luck at or apps with algorithms designed to help them make a connection. So how does sloth dating work?

Watch this video all the way to end to find out:

Did you watch it? What a sound! That loud high pitched sound is designed to catch the ear of male who could be many miles away. It’s a frightening sound to human ears, and some suggest that it has inspired some native legends about evil sloths in the rainforest.  Regardless, it is still better than having to use Tinder, right?

Still, a sloth will often struggle to find a mate, since they live far apart and are dependent on recognizing mating calls to find each other.

So, are you ready for the next part, when sloths get down to business? Well, too bad! Of one of the many mysteries that sloths still possess is how exactly their breeding works. Do females reject some males? Some evidence suggests they do, but there isn’t enough to determine that is truly the case. 

Other than that, the actual down-and-dirty (ummm...beautifully intimate) act of mating has almost never been witnessed. But we did find this one nice, innocent love story of two sloths finding each other:

Watch the video here:  

A Sloth's search for a Mate

Sloth Pregnancy

So, when are we getting to the baby sloths? Well, don’t forget there is another step first: pregnancy.


An ultrasound of a sloth fetus COURTESY OF ROGER WILLIAMS PARK ZOO


Pregnancy is very different for two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths as well. Two-toed sloth females carry their offspring in the womb for an entire year! By contrast, the three-toed sloths only gestitate for 6 months. Whether an entire year or half of a year, imagine having to spend your entire pregnancy in a tree? Also, the male sloths are deadbeats—they do nothing to help the mama sloth while she is pregnant nor once the baby is born.

Pregnant sloths are resilient and able to continue functioning as they normally would despite their condition. (Well, come on, lying around and eating leaves can’t be much harder pregnant than it normally is, right? We kid, we kid.)  But actually it is rather difficult for scientists to recognize that a sloth is pregnant because their behavior doesn’t change nor is the pregnancy very noticeable on their body. Recently, a sloth gave birth at a zoo without anyone having even known she was pregnant.

As far as birth goes, we’ll spare you the details but let you have look you want in this rare video of a sloth giving birth.

Sloth Gives Birth in the Wild

And the Baby Sloths?

OK, you have made it this far. Have a look at some baby sloths:

These are some of the baby sloths you can sponsor through the program Kids Saving the Rainforest. You can learn more about that program and others in are article How Can We Help Protect Sloths? An Extensive Guide.

After 4 to 12 months of pregnancy (depending on the sloth species) a sloth gives birth to its baby. Like humans, sloths generally only have one baby, rather than a litter of cubs like some mammals have. A sloth baby is born with its eyes open, all of its fur, and a skill that no sloth can live without: the ability to climb. Sloth babies are known as cubs, just like bears. 

A baby sloth will use its climbing ability to climb on to its mother’s belly or back. Their ability to hang on tight, something that will help them survive their entire life, is already strong and a key part of their survival, as their mother will be their only protection until they can fend for themselves. However, if that grip should fail, a baby sloth is strong enough to fall all the way to the forest floor and still survive!


Like most mammals, sloths nurse their young. That is to say the mother produces milk for her babies to feed on. This is the baby sloth’s only source of nourishment for about 2 months, at which time the baby sloth will start to eat leaves. At first a sloth with a baby may partially chew some leaves and feed those to her baby, and eventually the baby learns to eat their own leaves.

Baby sloths need their mother’s nourishment and protection during those first months. Also, sloths are not purely instinctual creatures. Again, like most mammals there is some amount of learning that the parents, usually the mother, pass on to the baby sloth.

One of the important lessons that sloth mothers teach to their young is how to go to the bathroom (just like humans!). While sloths spend most of their time in trees, of course, they take a weekly trip to the forest floor to do the number 2. This is one of the times when sloths are most vulnerable to predators. While sloths in trees move slow, they are quite agile and are generally well protected. Once on the ground, a sloth loses all of its advantages and becomes even slower. So, it’s important that the mother sloth show her babies the safest way to do their business.

A sloth with baby on the forest floor.

A baby sloth will generally be able to survive on its own after 4 to 6 months, but it will continue to live close to its mother for a year or two. By then it is no longer a baby and will first move on to another tree before moving even farther away to establish its own territory.

 

So, it’s clear that a sloth baby is about the cutest thing ever. We keep a curated list of great sloth videos and the ones with baby sloths in them are about the most popular.  Have a look at some of them:

When a Baby Sloth Chases After You

What Does A Sloth Say? Sloth Sounds

Adorable Squeaking Baby Sloths

 

And finally a very special story about about an adorable but unfortunate baby sloth: Oatmeal the Sloth: A Story of Hope

Oatmeal lost his mother when she and he were electrocuted and burnt by climbing on powerlines, an unfortunately common plight for sloths as human civilization encroaches on their habitat. The Toucan Research Ranch found Oatmeal and helped nurse him back to health and teach him the things that his mother would, so he can grow up and be a successful sloth.

As always, if you have stories, facts, pics, videos or anything else related to baby sloths (or any other sloth subject) we would be happy if you shared it with us!

 


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