If iconic villains were replaced with sloths…
To celebrate the end of October we have created some spooky Halloween sloths and listed our favourite spooky sloth facts for you to enjoy! You will notice that we have ‘sloth-ified’ four iconic villains from some of your favorite horror movies: the puppet from Saw, Pennywise, Chucky and Hannibal Lecter. Happy Halloween!
#1 The Legend of the ‘Mapinguari’ and the Giant Ground Sloth
The legend of the Mapinguari is not only terrifying, but may also be proof than an ancient type of sloth may still roam the jungles of South America. South American folk-law tells of a giant Amazon forest monster that has nasty claws, backward-facing feet and an extra mouth on its belly. Apparently this giant hairy beast wanders the forests of South America, tearing down trees with its powerful claws and leaving behind a trail of destruction as it looks for food.
Some scientists have an interesting theory about the Mapinguari and believe that it may actually be a species of giant ground sloth, once though extinct but now living in the depths of the forest. One researcher in particular, David Oren, a Harvard and Yale-trained biologist and ornithologist, thinks the infamous monster is actually the last living megatherium (a type of ground sloth that stood over 25 feet tall and was once one of the largest mammals to walk the earth). “It is quite clear to me that the legend of the mapinguari is based on human contact with the last of the ground sloths… we know that extinct species can survive as legends for hundreds of years. But whether such an animal still exists or not is another question.” Perhaps one of these giant sloths is still roaming through the depths of the jungle in the Brazillian Amazon, although it would be more of a gentle giant feasting on leaves an avocados rather than a blood-thirsty monster coming to eat your children!
#2 The Sloths Strange Taste for Toilets
In 2001, a group of scientists working in the Peruvian Amazon noticed a sloth hanging from the wooden beams over their toilet. It wasn’t just hanging there, though. It was actually eating from the latrine. The extraordinary behaviour was recorded on at least 25 occasions and the researchers later published their observations in the journal Mammalian Biology. It is likely that the sloths are receiving some sort of nutritional benefit from this bizarre feeding habit, although we are still unsure exactly what that might be. We do know that wild sloths practice something called ‘geophagy’ (which is where they eat earth or soil-like material such as clay or chalk to gain additional nutrients), and so perhaps the terrifying toilet visits are simply a nutritional boost for a mammal that eats only leaves!
#3 The ‘Panama creature’
In 2009 a group of teenagers discovered what appeared to be a hairless, terrifying creature crawling out of a cave in Panama. Fearing for their lives as it moved towards them, the boys claim they attacked the monster with sticks before throwing its lifeless body into a pool of water. They then took a picture of the animal for proof which quickly went viral on the internet as people compared it to the ‘Montauk Monster‘ from the previous year. The creature’s body was recovered four days after the encounter, and a biopsy was performed by the National Environmental Authority of Panama (ANAM). The biopsy concluded that the corpse was in fact a male brown-throated sloth that had probably died from natural causes. André Sena Maia, a veterinarian who works at Niteroi Zoo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, explained that “most people know how a dead animal looks like in a dry environment”, and claimed that “the body must have got stuck under the water, and the movement of the currents gave false impression that it was alive”. The hairlessness was probably caused by the fact it was submerged in water, which can lead to acceleration of fur loss, resulting in smooth skin.
#4 Sloths and Flesh Eating Diseases
Many people believe that sloths are terrifying because they can transmit a nasty disease to humans that will eat away at your flesh. This is a very strong belief held by people typically living in remote, poorly educated areas where wives tales and superstition are passed down through generations. Consequently, sloths are often feared in these regions and people will often respond in brutal ways if a sloth strays too close to their home. The disease in question is actually a flesh-eating parasite called ‘lesmaniasis’. It does indeed cause huge lesions to appear all over the body, but there is no way a sloth can transmit leishmaniasis to a human – this only happens through the bite of an infected sandfly. This misconception stems from a few scientific studies that have found sloths to test positive for the leishmania parasite. They are, in scientific terms, a reservoir for leishmania, but so are many mammals – including dogs!
#5 Do you know what is actually frightening for sloths?…
Humans – and the damage that we are causing to the sloth’s rainforest home. Deforestation, roads, power-lines and human exploitation are real-life horrors for sloths all over Central and South America. You can learn more about these problems and see what we are doing to help here.
Thank you for your ongoing support!