Everyone loves to come in and meet our three female, two-toed sloths, Rocket, Guapa, and Mulan! It is an incredible experience to see these rescued animals up close and La Paz Waterfall Gardens is one of the few places where you can do this.


Sloths can be found from eastern Honduras and northern Nicaragua south to Argentina, Peru and eastern Brazil in South America. Here in Costa Rica, they can be found more prevalently in the Caribbean and Pacific lowland forests, but they can also be found in the mid-mountain ranges and have been spotted in alpine forests as high as 9,750 feet above sea level (3,000 m). They are rarely seen in the Dry Forests of Guanacaste.

They cannot live in temperate (non-tropical) environments because they lack the available energy to thermo-regulate their body temperature. There is simply not enough energy to spare in their low-calorie diet of leaves to maintain their body temperatures in colder environments.

Interesting Physical Characteristics

Two-Toed Sloths have two hooked claws on their forelegs (arms) and three hooked claws on their hind legs just like Three-Toed sloths. This causes some confusion with tourists trying to identify the type of sloth because if they see the hind legs and see three claws they immediately assume it to be a Three-Toed Sloth which is not correct. It is the number of claws on the forelegs or arms that determines the species. Also, the Two-Toed Sloth has a “pig or bear-like snout” and has longer more evenly colored fur and does not have the facial “smile” markings of the Three-Toed Sloth. The Two-Toed sloth has no tail at all compared to the very short “nubby” tail of the Three-Toed sloth. Most sloths will have algae, mites, ticks, beetles and sometimes moths growing in or on their fur. You can often see the slight green tinge of the algae on their fur in the right lighting. Their hooked claws are ideal for climbing and hanging in trees and they have an incredibly strong closed grip which is their claws’ natural position. When locked into place with a grip on a branch it is very difficult to dislodge them. There is a video of a 150-pound puma that jumped up and grabbed a sloth in its jaws and was hanging by its full weight but still could not dislodge the sloth from its grip on the branch.


Sloths are primarily found in rainforests, mature secondary forests and rarely in Dry Forests. There can be as many as 5-8 Sloths found in 2.5 acres (one hectare) of stabilized forest. Loss of habitat from human deforestation is the biggest threat to this species and their numbers have decreased in direct correlation with the loss of their habitat. Because of the loss of habitat, they are considered to be a species with a reduced population and are protected by CITES Conservation Laws both internationally and in Costa Rica.


Two-Toed Sloths are nocturnal and spend all of their time in trees

except when they move to a new tree for food (every 1.5 days) or to urinate and defecate once a week. During the day they sleep with their heads tucked to their chests to form a ball shape that looks like a termite nest and serves as camouflage from predators and conserves heat. They are extremely clumsy on the ground and vulnerable to predators. They literally have to drag themselves forward with

their arms as their extremely short hind legs prove no useful function on the ground. They are actually better at swimming than travelling over the ground. Their predators include Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots and other nocturnal carnivores.

Home Range

An individual sloth may have a home range of around 5 acres (2 hectares) and will use about 50 individual feeding trees in that home range during its lifespan. Of the 50 feeding trees approximately thirty of those trees will represent different species. Contrary to what most people believed years ago, sloths feed from a wide variety of tree species.


Two-Toed Sloths primarily eat leaves, but also shoots, fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, bark, and occasionally small rodents. They have large stomachs, with multiple chambers, which help to ferment the large amount of plant matter that they eat. Food can take up to a month to digest due to their slow metabolism. Depending on when in the excretion cycle a sloth is weighed, urine and feces may account for up to 30 percent of the animal’s body weight, which averages about 13 pounds (6 kilograms). Although they have a much more diverse diet in the wild than in captivity they can survive well in captivity on a diet of fruits and vegetables. The Three-Toed sloth is much more difficult to maintain in captivity because it needs a constant supply of leaves from various trees such as the Guarumo Cecropia and up to 96 other lesser known species. The Three-Toed Sloth will not normally consume vegetables and fruits. The leaves to feed them in captivity must be harvested from the forest daily and hand fed to them.

Life History, Reproduction and Evolution

Sloths live approximately 12 years.

Two-Toed Sloths are not closely related genetically to the Three-Toed Sloth and are thought to have evolved independently to occupy a similar ecological niche. The Two-Toed Sloth is larger than the Three-Toed and can weigh from 8-19 lbs. (4- 8.5 kg). The Two-Toed Sloths are actually more related genetically to the extinct Giant Sloth than they are to the Three-Toed Sloth.

A sloth’s musculature, stomach, and metabolism are intensely coordinated to operate using a minimum of expended energy and to yield the most energy from their low-calorie food supply (leaves). They have very low muscle mass relative to the size of their stomach and intestines compared to other mammals. Their stomach and intestines comprise an enormous 30% of their entire weight. The digestion of the leaves they eat can take up to one month. This system, like a cow’s stomach, is slow but very efficient in deriving as much energy as possible from the relatively indigestible leaves they consume. Their low body temperature of approximately 86°F (30°C) and their lethargic behaviors are other body functions that save energy.

A male sloth reaches sexual maturity in 4-5 years and females in around 3 years. Male sloths attract female sloths by marking their territory with a powerfully scented secretion from a rear gland in their buttocks. They normally copulate in the branches of a tree.

The gestation period is from 5-7 months and only one offspring is born weighing about 9 ounces (250g). It clings to its mother’s abdomen with its claws and suckles for up to 4 weeks before beginning to feed on leaves chewed up by the mother for another month. It then feeds alongside the mother for up to 6 more months. This time period spent with the mother after weaning gives the young sloth the opportunity to learn individual food trees. The mother then moves on to a new feeding range and leaves her offspring her previous home range to live and feed. This gift of territory helps to insure the survival of her young. However, the mortality rate of sloths is so high that rarely will two successive generations survive.

Unlike many other mammals of their type Sloths have color vision. They also have an excellent sense of smell which aids in finding food sources and mates, but they have extremely poor hearing.

Sloths are most closely related to anteaters and armadillos than any other mammals and are grouped in the same order with them. They are also thought to be related to the Koala Bear in Australia but from way back in the evolutionary calendar.

Social Structure

These animals lead a solitary life and only come together to mate.