10.1 Habitat Loss and genetics
For animals such as sloths that have limited dispersal abilities, habitat loss is extremely detrimental to their survival.
One of the major problems associated with habitat fragmentation is the inability of sloths to travel across forest gaps for breeding. Isolated from potential mates, this results in inbreeding, and consequently a rapid loss of genetic diversity.
Genetic diversity is one of the most important factors that determine the adaptability and survival of a species.
Unfortunately, warning signs of inbreeding are already becoming apparent in some populations, with a high number of baby sloths being born with birth defects such as missing fingers, albinism, and misshapen jaws and limbs.
10.2 Endangered sloths
Sloths are facing a long and sad list of threats including deforestation, power line electrocutions, dog attacks, poaching, road collisions, human cruelty, and global warming.
As a result, the Pygmy three-fingered sloths of Panama are now listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, while the Maned sloths of Brazil have been listed as vulnerable.
10.3 Conservation in Costa Rica
There is much debate as to the number of individuals left in the wild, with published estimates ranging from one hundred up to several thousand.
Furthermore, the government of Costa Rica has recently declared two species of sloths as conservation concerns in the country due to populations being in “reduced and threatened states”.
10.4 Sloth parasites
A parasite is an organism that lives in or on a host and benefits by deriving nutrients at said host’s expense. A parasite differs from a symbiote in that a symbiote offers some benefit to the host in exchange.
There is very little research on parasitic infections in sloths. The majority of research that has been conducted has taken place on captive sloth populations, which live a very different lifestyle than wild sloths, with very different diets, vulnerabilities, and exposure.