SHILLONG:

Our planet is home to various animals that are not only adorable but have different ways of surviving. Each is celebrated for its uniqueness on a specific day and on October 20 the day is celebrated as International Sloth Day for the slow-moving, tree-dwelling, and leaf-eating mammals.

The day was created in 2010 by the AIUNAU Foundation, a non-profit conservation and wildlife organization based in Colombia, to raise awareness about the animals, some of which are critically endangered.

Here are some facts about the adorable animals:

1. They are native to the rainforests of Central and South America.

2. There are six extant species of sloths, and they are divided into two groups – the three-toed and the two-toed sloths.

3. The pygmy three-toed sloth is critically endangered as per the IUCN Red List, while the maned three-toed sloth is endangered.

4. They have a slightly lower body core temperature than most mammals and can become sluggish if their temperature drops too low.

5. They have an incredibly slow metabolism, only relieving themselves once or twice a week. They descend about once every eight days to defecate on the ground, a reason scientists are still debating.

6. Sloths mostly eat leaves, which is the reason for their famed slowness. It is said that as leaves are not energy-rich, hence sloths sleep more and move slowly to conserve energy. Another fact is that it takes sloths days to digest even a single leaf, the reason being that their stomachs, which have four compartments, cannot easily digest the leaf.

7. While they are slow on land, they are good swimmers and are able to travel three times faster than they do on land and can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes at a time. The reason for this is because their multi-chamber stomach also acts as a floatation device.

8. Their long, coarse fur grows in the opposite direction to most other mammals. In most mammals, hairs grow toward the extremities, but because sloths spend so much time with their limbs above their bodies, their hairs grow away from the extremities to provide protection from the elements while they hang upside down.

9. The fur hosts symbiotic algae, which provide camouflage from predatory jaguars, ocelots, and harpy eagles. Because of the algae, sloth fur is a small ecosystem of its own, hosting many species of commensal and parasitic arthropods.

10. Sloths have colour vision, but have poor visual acuity. They also have poor hearing. Thus, they rely on their sense of smell and touch to find food.

11. Sloths are solitary animals that rarely interact with one another except during breeding season, though female sloths do sometimes congregate, more so than do males.

12. They produce only one baby after a gestation period of six months for the three-toed, and 12 months for the two-toed sloths, and they stay with their mother for about five months.

13. Baby sloths learn what to eat by licking the lips of their mother. While the two-toed sloths are omnivorous, with a diverse diet of insects, carrion, fruits, leaves and small lizards, the three-toed sloths, on the other hand, are almost entirely herbivorous (plant eaters).

These lovable animals face many dangers on a daily basis and not only from other animals but also from humans. They often become victims of animal trafficking and are sold as pets even though they make very poor pets, as they have such a specialised ecology.