Sloth Versus Capybara

Sloth versus Capybara

The sloth and the capybara, do they have anything in common? What is a capybara, anyway? Aren’t they, like, exotic-looking giant rats?


Capybaras are indeed rodents, the largest in the world, and they are native to South America, so they do share a lot of territory with sloths! They’re both mammals, they both can swim (in fact, the capybara is semi-aquatic), they’re both vegetarians, and they both look great in pictures!


capybara scale

Are sloths and capybaras Related?

Not for about 100 million years. Like so many mammals, the capybara said goodbye to the Xenarthra superorder when Atlantogenata (including manatees, shrews, elephants, and of course our favorite sloths) split from Boreoeutheria (including cats, dogs, rabbits, monkeys, and rodents).

Basically, the easy way to remember if sloths are related to other mammals is: no, unless it’s another Xenarthra. Everyone else split up before the dinosaurs went extinct.

Where do they live?

Both sloths and cavys (the family that includes capybaras, guinea pigs, and wild cavys) evolved in South America, and capybaras live there still. So do many sloths, but sloths also branched out and now live in parts of Central America too!


Are they social animals?

Sloths definitely are not social, but capybaras are very gregarious. In the wild, the biggest group of sloths that seek association with each other is a mother and her baby, but capybaras form groups of 10-40 individuals that may merge into much larger groups during the dry season.



Like sloths, when in heat capybaras make a whistling noise (actually, in sloths it sounds more like a scream or bird cry), but unlike sloths, capybaras only mate in water.


capybara with animals
Capybaras are known for being one of the friendliest animals, usually sharing spaces with other species. In this photo a capybara with a smooth-billed ani and a wattled jacana. Pantanal, Brasil.

Who sleeps more?

Sloths sleep eight or nine hours per 24-hour cycle, and capybaras also sleep in small naps throughout the day, staying most active around dawn and dusk. The more interesting question is: where do they sleep? Sloths sleep hanging upside down in trees, and capybaras often sleep in the water!



What do they eat?

Both sloths and capybaras are vegetarians, eating a lot of leaves (almost exclusively leaves, in the case of sloths), and capybaras also eat bark, fruit, reeds, and grass. The name Capybara comes from tupí and means “grass-eater”.


sloth mother feeding her baby leaves
Baby sloths learn from their mother what leaves are good to eat

Both animals have specialized adaptations to help them digest the tough cellulose found in their diets: sloths ferment it in their large stomachs, and capybaras are autocoprophagous, meaning that they digest their food twice by eating it again after they poop it out once.

How do scientists study sloths and capybaras?

Capybaras do pretty well in captivity, and many studies are conducted on captive animals. Scientists in Japan actually developed an objective classification for how much capybaras enjoy bathing in hot springs (answer: a lot).



Sloths are best studied in the wild, though they are sometimes hard to find, whereas the abundant capybara is easier to spot, observe, and genetically test.

What problems do sloths and capybaras have in common?

Like all wild animals, sloths and capybaras face problems with deforestation and loss of habitat. Capybaras, however, have adapted better than sloths to human encroachment on their environment and can be found in zoos, parks, farms, and even urban neighborhoods.

Are they endangered?

Both capybaras and a few species of sloths are listed by the IUCN as “least concern”, but in the case of sloths, the populations are likely declining significantly, whereas, in the case of capybaras, we are happy to report that they are indeed probably doing very well. The capybara’s ability to live alongside humans has helped them adapt to our changing world.


What can be done to protect both species?

Capybaras are actually doing pretty well, though as aquatic animals they benefit from all initiatives that help protect rivers, lakes, wetlands, and water sources. They are threatened in some areas by hunting.

Sloths need forests to survive, and since rainforests make great watersheds, you can help both sloths and capybaras by saving the rainforest. Both animals face ever-increasing levels of habitat urbanization, and you can also assist by supporting organizations that help them adapt. Perhaps sloths have a thing or two to learn from capybaras-as scientists, we know we do!

Sloth versus Giraffe

Sloth versus Giraffe

This month we’ve got another weird one for you as we compare the world’s tallest mammal with the world’s slowest: yes, that’s right, we bring you Sloths vs Giraffes!

They’ve both got long necks! They both make some weird noises! Let’s take a look and see what giraffes have in common with sloths… and what they don’t.

Are sloths and giraffes related?

Trick question, sloths are hardly related to anybody except anteaters and armadillos, and them only barely. Giraffes are ungulates (hoofed mammals) of the superorder Laurasiatheria, originally from the supercontinent of Laurasia, which used to be part of Gondwana. Giraffes and sloths haven’t been related to one another for about 100 million years.


Longer or more?

It’s a common misconception that giraffes’ long necks must have more neck vertebrae than any other mammal. After all, a giraffe’s neck can easily reach 2 meters (6 ft) long! Giraffes in fact have seven cervical (neck) vertebrae, the same numbers as humans, dogs, and most mammals. The only difference is that in giraffes, the bones are stretched very long to enable the tall neck that lets the giraffes browse the tops of trees.

giraffe skeleton
Image: Gordon Johnson on Pixabay


Giraffes’ long necks aren’t just used to reach tasty treats; they also fight with them. Male giraffes establish dominance with other males by pushing each other with their necks, and sometimes swinging and butting each other with their necks and ossicones (the short horns on top of their heads). Recent research indicates that these dominance battles may have been the original driver of the long necks, with the treetop grazing abilities being a side effect.



Sloths use their impressive claws when they need to fight, and their necks are not as proportionally long as a giraffe, but some sloths actually do have more neck bones. While most mammals (including the giraffe) have seven cervical vertebrae, two-fingered sloths have six, and three-fingered sloths have nine! Sloths’ elongated necks can rotate 270° and are useful for scanning their surroundings and keeping their heads above water while swimming.



Where do they live?

Sloths live in trees, and giraffes live on the ground. More specifically, sloths live in trees in tropical rainforests in the Western Hemisphere, and giraffes live on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa.

What do they eat?

Sloths and giraffes are both big consumers of tree products. Sloths eat leaves, whereas giraffes eat tree leaves, twigs, and bark, and also feed on shrubs, grass, and fruit. They have occasionally been known to chew bones, which don’t grow on trees. Giraffes eat about 34 kg (75 lbs) of foliage daily.


Giraffe at Mala Mala reserve, South Africa. Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Who sleeps more?

For the first time in a while, we’ve found an animal that sleeps less than our relaxed sloth! Giraffes sleep about four and a half hours per night  – mostly standing up, they only lie down for short periods of time. They spend most of their time chewing cud.

Are they social?

Unlike our solitary sloths, giraffes are quite social animals. They have long-lasting fission-fusion social groups that merge and split up in complex ways, usually based on sex and family ties. It’s possible that some giraffe herds are much larger than previously thought, as giraffes can use their great height to see and monitor other herd members from quite far away. Group sizes of more than 100 individuals have been observed.


A group of Giraffes , Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo: Suzi Eszterhas


Like sloths, mother giraffes give birth to a single baby at a time and raise them without the help of the father. Unlike sloths, female giraffes may babysit each other’s offspring. Female sloths scream when in heat in order to attract males, whereas giraffes make a low humming noise that humans care barely hear, and we aren’t entirely sure why.

Do they have parasites?

Sloths have an entire ecosystem living in their fur, but most of the moths, algae, and fungi that live there have a symbiotic relationship with the sloths. Giraffes have as many as 11 chemicals in their fur that combine to repel many kinds of insects!

How do scientists study them?

Wild giraffes are recorded by ground survey methods such as mark-recapture photo surveys. Each giraffe has a unique pattern of spots, much like a human fingerprint, that is stable over time and a good way to recognize individuals. Sloths are studied exclusively by researchers in the field, as the thick jungle canopy prevents aerial observation. Both animals have different behaviors and feeding habits in captivity.


What problems do they have in common?

Like sloths and so many other wild animals, giraffes suffer from deforestation and habitat loss. Giraffes currently inhabit only 10% of their ancestral range, the other 90% has been lost to humans and habitat fragmentation. Giraffes are also hunted for bushmeat, which is sometimes sold as “beef”.

Habitat fragmentation can lead to inbreeding, though sloths may be more at risk for this than giraffes. The West African giraffe population rebounded from 49 individuals to a healthy population of over 600, proving that these are very resilient animals that only need us to give them a chance!


Lewa Conservancy, Kenya. Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

What is the IUCN classification?

Giraffe populations are a little easier to estimate than sloth populations, but both are declining. Sloths range from “least concern” to “critically endangered” depending on the species.  The IUCN still recognizes only one species with 9 subspecies.



But according to The Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s peer-reviewed research, Giraffes have four different species with a variety of subspecies, some of which are “vulnerable”, and some of which are “critically endangered”.



The Nubian giraffe has lost 95% of its population in the last 30 years. Populations that benefit from good conservation are actually increasing, though some of these numbers may be due to better survey methods. With a current best population guess at 117,000 there are approximately half as many giraffes left on planet Earth as Ferraris.

What can be done to protect both species?

Don’t eat them, give them space, and don’t buy their bones. You probably aren’t tempted to go down to your local supermarket for a can of Sloth Soup, and if you live outside of Africa there isn’t much access to giraffe bushmeat, but you can support sustainable agriculture and initiatives to end poverty, which keeps people from being so desperate that they have to eat and exploit animals better left alone.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, much like the Sloth Conservation Foundation, works to help protect their respective species from extinction, so check out their amazing work and support them! A huge thanks to our colleagues from GFC and their valuable contributions to this ‘Sloth Versus Giraffe’.

Tall or small, neotropical or African, black-tongued or pink, both of these amazing animals help make our world what it is. Don’t let sloths or giraffes suffer from habitat loss or face extinction! We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to keep our world rich with diversity.

Sloth vs Armadillo

Sloth vs Armadillo

In today’s edition of “Sloths vs” we bring you the final, the long-awaited, the last but never least of the Xenarthran Superorder, the armadillo!



Are sloths and armadillos related? Yes!

Like all Xenarthrans, armadillos hail from South America, where they diverged from our furry friends the anteaters and sloths about 60 million years ago—give or take a few million. The cingulate (plural for cingulata, which is the name of the order) are so-called because they are “the ones with armor” as opposed to the pilosa, which are the “ones with fur”.


Xenarthra filogenetic


Sloths, unsurprisingly, are part of the “ones with fur” whereas armadillos and their extinct relatives the glyptodonts and pampatheres are “the ones with armor”. Sloths are related to armadillos, but not as close as they are to anteaters!

Where do they live?

Although sloths and armadillos originated in South America, once South America met North America via the isthmus of Panama, sloths and armadillos used the newly formed land bridge to migrate north, though the armadillos went much further, and can be even found as far north as parts of the United States. 


Sloth in a tropical rainforest / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas


Armadillos are particularly prevalent in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil for those wishing to see them in the wild. Sloths live in the canopy of trees, most armadillos live on the ground, and some species live underground, just like their ancestors!


Hairy Armadillo ( Chaetophractus villosus) entering its burrow, Península Valdés, Patagonia Argentina. / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Armadillos, like sloths, prefer their own company.

Other than raising her young (which in some cases consist of four identical quadruplets, and in others can range from 1 to 12 pups), the armadillo lives in solitary splendor. 


Giant Armadillo (Priodontes Maximus)  in Brazil. / Photo: Giant Armadillo Project

Do sloths sleep more than armadillos?

In spite of the sloths’ reputation, armadillos actually sleep far more! While sloths clock in about nine hours per day, armadillos actually sleep about 16 hours per day, and maybe more in captivity. Lugging around all those boney plates must be pretty exhausting! Giant armadillos are only active on average 5-6 hours a night! 


sloth in canopy rainforest
Two-fingered sloth sleeping in the canopy


What do they eat?

As compared to sloths’ leaf-only diet, armadillos have a much more diverse diet which will vary between species. Some may eat a few plants and sometimes fruit; the majority feed mostly on insects. Some prefer ants and termites, and others will eat a large variety of creepy-crawlies, up to and including worms, spiders, and scorpions.



So if you don’t care for spiders and scorpions, you’ll love armadillos for being one of their natural predators! The giant armadillo can eat up to 200,000 ants in one go, though there is no record of how many spiders they can get rid of.

Claws for digging and climbing

All xenarthrans have large claws that help them in various ways; anteaters use them to dig up ant and thermite nests, armadillos use them to dig burrows, and sloths use them to climb trees and hang onto branches. Xenarthran’s claws are very strong.

Sloth claws act as their fingers and species such as the giant armadillo have large, scimitar-shaped foreclaws. The third front claw of the giant armadillo is greatly enlarged and can reach lengths of over 20 cm (7.9 in)!


Giant Armadillo (Priodontes Maximus)  in Brazil. / Photo: Giant Armadillo Project


Curl up and roll up

Another behavior sloths and armadillos have in common is their tendency to curl up in response to danger. When they are stressed or threatened, armadillos roll up into an armored ball, hiding their soft parts. While sloths are not protected with keratin armor, they still sometimes curl up on themselves to protect their heads. Researchers call this behavior “hunkering”.



How are they studied?

Sloths are difficult animals to study in the wild. Some species of armadillos are less cryptic (they don’t hide in trees all the time), but others are rare, nocturnal, and harder to find than you’d think, especially in the case of the giant armadillo.


Photo: Instituto de Conservação de Animais Silvestres


Unlike sloths, which do not do very well in captivity, armadillos are sometimes bred and used as research animals. The nine-banded armadillo’s ability to produce genetically identical quadruplets is useful to researchers who want to eliminate genetic variables, and as one of the few animals that contract systematic leprosy, they are often used to model the disease and test cures. This seems a bit unfair to the armadillos themselves, as they only got leprosy after humans came over from Europe and gave it to them!

Threats in common

Both sloths and armadillos suffer from roads in their territory and collisions with vehicles. In the case of sloths, this is because they move very slowly and can’t outrun or dodge cars, and in the case of armadillos, it is sometimes because they jump right into them. Unlike sloths, which famously cannot jump at all, the nine-banded armadillo can leap over a meter (3 to 4 feet) into the air! Unfortunately, this isn’t high enough to clear a speeding vehicle, and if we want to save them from cars, we’re just going to have to find a way for armadillos to live away from roads.



Both armadillos and sloths can be bothered by dogs. However, many species of armadillos can scurry quickly away into their burrow. The ability to turn into an armored ball, in the case of the three-banded armadillo, or scurry quickly away, in the case of most others, protects them a bit, but dogs can still injure them.  They suffer greatly from habitat fragmentation and hunting. Unlike sloth meat, in some regions of South America armadillos are considered a tasty treat.

How vulnerable are they?

Happily, most of the 22 species of armadillos are not (yet) endangered. The giant armadillo and the Andean hairy armadillo are both listed by the IUCN as “vulnerable”, and there is a lack of data about how endangered the giant armadillo really is… much like most sloths.

What can we do?

The Giant Armadillo Conservation Program and the Instituto de Conservação de Animais Silvestres, based out of Brazil, are helping to conserve this shy giant armadillo and the ecosystems they depend on. Much like SloCo, they are dedicated to researching and understanding wildlife so as to help animals and local humans coexist.

In fact, both Gabriel Massocato from The Giant Armadillo Conservation Project and Dr. Rebecca Cliffe from  The Sloth Conservation Foundation won the 2022 Future For Nature award to help save their respective species! In the end, the more we understand our fellow earthlings, the better we can all get along.

Special Thanks to Arnaud Debiez and his team from Instituto de Conservação de Animais Silvestres

Sloth versus Cheetah

Sloth versus Cheetah

Ready! Get set! Go….odbye!

It’s a good thing this isn’t a race, because if it were, it wouldn’t be much of a contest between the slowest mammal and the fastest; after all, the sloth is outpaced by some species of plants, whereas the cheetah travels at speeds only matched by humans on the freeway.


In fact, if they were vehicles, cheetahs would be the muscle cars of the animal world, whereas sloths would be kind of like those floating innertubes that go around Lazy Rivers at theme parks.

If not speed, then do these two animals have anything at all in common?


Are sloths and cheetahs related?

Cheetahs are members of the family Felidae, most closely related to jaguarundis and cougars and somewhat more distantly related to the common house cat. Sloths and cheetahs last shared an ancestor about 90 to 100 million years ago, before Tyranosaurus Rex first terrorized the Earth.




Both are in the mammalian infraclass Placentalia (an infraclass is in between a class—mammalia—and a clade—Boreoeutheria, for the cheetah, and Atlantogenata, for the sloths), but other than that they aren’t very close. Sloths are an old species, having been around for some 30+ million years, whereas cheetahs are comparatively young species at only about 3 to 3.5 million years old.


Savannahs and Jungles

Sloths and cheetahs live on completely different halves of the world: in fact, that’s what the two names of the clades Boreoeutheria and Atlantogenata refer to. Sloths like to live in tall trees of the Central and South American jungles, whereas cheetahs like to live in savannahs, mountains, and valleys of Africa and Iran with thin vegetation. It turns out when you can go from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds, trees become obstacles very quickly. Sloths, on the other hand, go from 0 to 60 in approximately never and are therefore better adapted to the forest.


Cheetah mother w 4.5 month old cubs on a termite mound, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. / Brown-throated sloth in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica. Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Are they social animals?

Cheetahs were once thought to be solitary animals, much like sloths, but recent observations have revealed that cheetahs actually have a rather complex social structure. Sometimes cheetahs will be loners, but males frequently associate in groups called “coalitions”, usually but not always consisting of siblings.


Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia.


Females live with their current litter of kittens and will often be friendly with their daughters, sisters and mothers. Sloths will peacefully share the same tree with other sloths, but almost never interact with each other outside of mother-child pairs and very brief mating encounters.

Do sloths sleep more than cheetahs?

Cheetahs may move faster than sloths, but they make up for it by sleeping more! Cheetahs spend most of their day resting (when they aren’t setting land speed records, that is), and about 12 hours out of every day is dedicated to snoozing.



This is still better than the common house cat, who sleeps up to 16 hours a day, but much lazier than that sloth, who sleeps only 8 to 10 hours out of 24.



What do they eat?

Like all cats, cheetahs are carnivores. They eat small to medium sized prey, mostly ungulates (hooved mammals), but will occasionally eat rabbits, livestock, and melons. Scientists think the melons are eaten for their water content, which can be scarce in some of the more arid areas of the cheetah’s habitat.



Sloths only eat melons in captivity, and they probably aren’t good for them. One dietary preference that sloths and cheetahs have in common is that neither one eats humans! The cheetahs probably could if they wanted to, but happily for us, they just want to be left alone.

How do scientists study cheetahs and sloths?

Humans have long admired the sleek, speedy cheetah, and historical records of them go back for millennia. In fact, the most difficult thing about the history of the cheetah is human’s annoying habit of referring to all big cats with a few interchangeable names: basically every cat that doesn’t wear a collar and go by Mrs. Tiddles has been called, at some point, a “leopard”, making specific details hard to discern.


Cheetahs at Masai Mara Conservancy, Kenya. Photo: Suzi Eszterhas


Scientists who study cheetahs are challenged by the large territories occupied by the big cats, which are up to 7,063 km2 (2,727 sq mi)! However, cheetahs are much less cryptic than sloths—just look for the only thing on the savannah streaking by at up to 128 km/h (80 mph)—and cheetahs have benefited from a very good PR campaign since the 1970s, though they are still killed for their fur and interactions with livestock in much of Africa. Sloths, on the other hand, have only recently come to the interest of scientists, social media, and the general public.



What problems do they face and what is their conservation status?

As with so many wild animals, both sloths and cheetahs face a lot of difficulties with habitat loss. Wild creatures need wild spaces, and you don’t get much more wild than either sloths or cheetahs! Habitat fragmentation is a particular problem for both animals, leading to dangerous levels of inbreeding.



Unlike sloths, cheetahs are social enough to tame, though they don’t do very well in captivity. Specifically, cheetahs rarely mate in captivity, and their kittens have a very high mortality rate—which is probably the reason they have never been fully domesticated. Both animals suffer from illegal trafficking and the pet trade, though public campaigns have reduced this considerably for cheetahs in recent decades.

The IUCN lists cheetahs as “vulnerable”, whereas the Endangered Species Act goes one step further and lists them as “endangered”. Most sloth species are listed (probably incorrectly) as “least concern”, though both cheetahs and sloths have species that are critically endangered. The pygmy sloth falls into this category, and the Asiatic cheetah has only 12 individuals left in the wild.

What can we do to help cheetahs and sloths?

Sloths and cheetahs are both resilient, adaptable animals that can thrive if only given the chance to do so! The African Wildlife Foundation and the Cheetah Conservation Fund are two organizations working with these amazing cats, and of course, your friends here at SloCo dedicate our days to saving sloths. The most important thing YOU can do is to support organizations that keep the wilderness intact, promote scientific initiatives that find peaceful compromises between humans and wildlife, and of course, never buy or handle wildlife that was never meant to be a pet.

No matter whether you identify with the speed and agility of the cheetah or the Pura Vida relaxation of the sloth, we have so much to learn from our fellow animals, and our world is always enriched by the amazing diversity that life brings us!

Sloth versus Red Panda

Sloth versus Red Panda

Not to be confused with the giant panda, the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a small, furry mammal slightly larger than a house cat and completely unrelated to sloths. Red pandas are slightly more related to giant pandas than they are to sloths: the giant and red pandas parted ways just over 30 million years ago… about the time two- and three-fingered sloths diverged.


sloth versus red panda
Red Pandas have also been called the “firefox”, “lesser panda”, and “red-cat-bear”. “First panda” and “Original panda” seem more appropriate nicknames because western scientists described them 50 years before the giant panda. Source: Red Panda Network. /Photo: Suzi Eszterhas


Convergent evolution

In fact, red pandas and giant pandas, like two-fingered sloths and three-fingered sloths, are examples of convergent evolution. Both species of sloths have evolved to look and act very similar in order to occupy the same ecological niche, whereas the bamboo-eating habits of red and giant pandas have given both animals “false thumbs” in order to better grasp bamboo shoots.


red panda versus sloth
Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Family of their own

Sloths are members of the order Xenarthra, related to armadillos and anteaters; whereas the red panda is in the superfamily Musteloidea, related to skunks and weasels.  (The giant panda, which we’ll stop talking about now, is actually a kind of bear.) Most recent genetic research, however, places red pandas in their own, independent family: Ailuridae. 



Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are

Although all Musteloidea are in the order Carnivora, red pandas are not particularly carnivorous, which brings us to our first similarity: like sloths, they eat mostly plants!


Sloths of course eat only tropical leaves, whereas the red pandas eat primarily bamboo, but they might find some food groups in common if only they lived on the same continent. Or at the same elevation. Or had any overlapping territories at all, really.


sloth versus red panda
Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Tropical rainforest and cold Himalayas

Sloths live in the tropics of the Americas, whereas red pandas live around the borders of the eastern Himalayas, preferably at elevations of 2,000 to 4,300 meters (6,600 to 14,100 feet).

Unfortunately for both of them, deforestation and habitat fragmentation are a worldwide problem, and red pandas are endangered and fighting for their survival due to human-caused threats, currently the poaching and illegal trade of their pelt has emerged as a biggest threat.


Red Panda
Red pandas live in the Himalayas in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), and southern China. Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Cute and solo

Another similarity between these furry would-be friends is that neither of them really has many friends. As in, the kind of friends you hang out with socially. Maybe they maintain some long-distance friendships, but sloths and red pandas are both solitary animals whose adults don’t socialize much except for the necessity of mating.


Unlike sloths, red pandas are territorial and don’t even invite other red pandas over at all—so perhaps sloths and red pandas should just respect each other’s space and agree to be pen pals.


sloth versus red panda
Red pandas are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, and just like sloths, they spend most of the day resting in trees conserving their energy./ Photo: Suzi Eszterhas


Red pandas in captivity can live for 14 years—as opposed to sloths, which can exceed 50 years in the case of two-fingered sloths. Both animals have primarily been studied in captivity, and scientists are still learning about how the behavior of wild populations differs from captive ones.

Red Pandas and Sloths in popular culture

Sloths and red pandas make excellent movie stars… in animated films, anyway. From Sid in Ice Age or Pricilla Trippletoe in Zootopia, these iconic creatures are fun to imagine onscreen. Like sloths, red pandas possess an irresistible appeal—just look at those ringed tails, and red and white faces!


turning red


Mei in Turning Red takes it to a whole new level in Disney Pixar’s latest film, succeeding such red panda icons as Master Shifu, in Kung Fu Panda, and Retsuko of the series Aggretsuko. So long as people’s takeaway from these movies is to respect these creatures in their wild homes and raise awareness of the threats they face (as opposed to thinking they need a sloth or red panda as a pet) this can only be a good thing.

Red Pandas are an endangered species

Wild red pandas, like wild sloths, face many threats to their survival. Conservation of habitat is key, but red pandas face illegal trafficking in greater numbers than sloths. Whereas no one really envies the sloths, their lovely algae-green fur, the thick fluffy tails and skin of the red pandas are considered luxury items by some unscrupulous humans.


Red Panda
The global red panda population has declined by 50% in 20 years and there may be as few as 2,500 remaining in the wild. Source: Red Panda Network / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas


Last but not least, if you’d like to be a scrupulous human, make all your adoptions of sloths and red pandas virtual ones! Both animals are adorable, but neither makes good pets. Red pandas are mostly nocturnal, not very social, have specialized diets, and (in case that’s not enough) they poop out the equivalent of their own body weight every week! So let’s leave sloths, red pandas, and their respective toilets where they belong—out in the wild.


The Red Panda Network and The Sloth Conservation Foundation are leading the fight to protect these incredible animals in Nepal and Costa Rica, and you can support their work by making a donation, adopting a Red Panda, or adopting a sloth!