Animal：Southern two-toed sloth
【明報專訊】What if you could curl up all day, do nothing and just eat your favourite food? What if you only have to lift your fingers to get any snack you want because they hang all around you? What an enviable life!
Life of leisure
Welcome to the world of southern two-toed sloths (二趾樹獺), one of the slowest species on earth. They have four long limbs with strong, curved claws to hold tight to tree branches upside-down. They can easily sleep for over 15 hours on a single day, snuggled into a furry ball.
Southern two-toed sloths are cuddly in size. They measure around 46 to 86 cm and weigh only up to 8 kg. Found mainly in the tropical forests in South America, they have a very good sense of smell, but poor hearing. This makes them quite defenceless. Their slowness compensates for that.
Stillness is the best defence
The immobile sloths are so cosy up there in the trees that algae (藻) may slowly grow on their long, brown fur. This gives them a greenish coat and makes the best camouflage (保護色) among tree canopies. No wonder, sloths are often mistaken for tree knobs or termite (白蟻) nests!
At night, the unhurried sloths finally become "active". That is, they stay in the same position, quietly lapping dew for moisture and calmly put berries, fruits and leaves into their mouths - all in super slow motion. The metabolism of sloths is so slow that they only need to poo once a week! In fact, to poo is the key reason why the sloths come down from the trees, away from safety. As you may imagine, they are really clumsy on the ground -they need to drag their bodies in order to move around. Surprisingly, sloths are rather good swimmers. They do this in their own relaxed way too.
Trees of life
Southern two-toed sloths spend their lives among trees. They eat there, sleep there, mate there and give birth there. Baby sloths cling onto their mothers' bellies for the first five weeks of their lives. Trees are the natural habitat of these adorable animals. As trees disappear, so does the home of the sloths. Tropical forests all over the world are being destroyed. Wildfires are burning forests down.
We can all do our part to protect the home of the lovely sloths. We can reduce our use of paper and wood products, especially when they are not produced in a sustainable manner. We can also reuse or recycle these products to help reduce the cutting of trees.
text and photos: Ocean Park Hong Kong
curl up (phr) 蜷作一團
defenceless (adj) 不能自衛的
clumsy (adj) 笨重的
sustainable (adj) 可持續的
[Smarties' Power English 第253期]