Sloths spend their lives in the trees, carrying out most of their daily tasks upside down but have you ever wondered how they manage to give birth high up in the canopy?
Sloths are solitary creatures and only meet up when its time to mate. Males leave secretions on tree branches, as special signals to let any females in the area know they are ready. Females, on the other hand, are known to start screaming at a very high pitch to advertise their presence and once a male has heard the mating cry, he will move slowly through the jungle towards her.
Despite being so closely related, the six species of sloth have different gestation periods and birthing habits. Three-toed sloths have offspring every 15 months or so, usually in the middle of the rainy season, after experiencing a six-month pregnancy. Two-toed sloths are pregnant for twice as long as their extra-toed cousins and generally give birth at the beginning of the dry season.
You might think a mother sloth would head for the forest floor to protect her newborn from the risk of falling, but they actually give birth in the canopy.
Leaving the tree opens a vulnerable sloth up to predation, and baby sloths have strong instincts to cling to their mother’s fur for the first few months of their lives, even after they have been weaned. During this time they learn from their mother which vegetation is safe to eat and how to defend themselves. They are specially adapted to hold on tight and baby sloths are born with their claws to avoid a long fall to the ground.
Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje