Life in slow mo: sloths and anteaters

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Serene sloth leisurely hanging in the lush green canopy of Mashpi Lodge, a sanctuary of biodiversity and conservation.

Sloths and anteaters are truly strange beasts

Strange shapes, strange to look at, and strange in the world as their order is exclusively found on the American continent and they now move in limited areas. This order – known as Pilosa – is characterized by the absence of many teeth; the few that it does have grow ceaselessly its entire life, without enamel, and without needing milk teeth. Both anteaters and sloths are found in the Mashpi Reserve, with a couple of species of each.

Tranquil sloth hanging from a tree in the serene environment of Mashpi Lodge, embodying the peaceful spirit of the forest.

Sloths and anteaters, two of the most emblematic creatures of the tropical American forests, showcase unique adaptations to their environment. The beautiful, unhurried, and hidden sloths, exclusive to these lush habitats, find a sanctuary within Ecuador – a country that hosts two families of sloths, encompassing three species, with the Mashpi Reserve being a proud home to two of these species. These mammals, equipped with long claws, have specialized in an arboreal lifestyle, moving slowly and solitarily through the trees in search of leaves, branches, and buds.

Just as sloths have adapted to their niche, anteaters share this realm, contributing to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the area, making the study and observation of sloths and anteaters in their natural habitat a truly enriching experience.

They are very difficult to see as they stay mainly still and move very short distances each day, but they form a part of the forest scenery, camouflaged among the humid tropical green.

How do they manage such excellent camouflage? They have made a pact of symbiosis with algae: their fur is the ideal habitat for green algae that show their appreciation for the home by giving the sloths a hiding place in their own skin, invisible to predators.

The three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus) is found in Mashpi. It has three long claws on its extremities and can turn its head 270°. It is more abundant than all other species but stays absolutely camouflaged and still among the trees, which is why it needs a hawkish eye to spot one.

Anteaters also have two families and four species in Ecuador, two of which are in the Mashpi Reserve. They are characterised by a long head, almost like a tube, with no teeth, and a small mouth through which they poke their tongue out to feed themselves. They love ants and other insects that live in colonies, like termites and bees.

Sloths and anteaters are among the fascinating creatures in Mashpi, with the western anteater (Tamandua mexicana) being a particularly common species. This termite fanatic thrives in the diverse ecosystem, showing adaptability by being active during both day and night, and demonstrating versatility in its slow and clumsy movements on the ground and in the trees.

In the lush environment of Mashpi, these anteaters are often captured by the camera traps (Link – Proyecto Cámaras Trampa), where they have been notably observed tenderly carrying their young on their backs, providing a glimpse into the nurturing side of sloths and anteaters in their natural habitat.

Sloths and anteaters
Silky anteater foraging on a mossy tree in Mashpi Lodge, showcasing the area’s rich biodiversity.
Tourists observing a yellow land iguana in its natural habitat at Finch Bay, Galapagos, included in Mashpi package tours.
Our Premier Ecuador Experience: The Golden Triangle
A Complete Experience that brings you the very best of Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands. With a stint in the Heart of Quito, The Mashpi Reserve, and a stay at The Galapagos Islands most lauded Hotel, Finch Bay.


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