WHAT ANIMALS EAT SLOTHS?

Written by: Akeem Eletu

Sloths are arboreal mammals native to the South and Central American forests. They are notorious for being very slow animals, but studies prove that they are also intelligent. 

Their usual disposition is to live a solitary life. They live quietly and do their best to prevent any attention and avoid being the next meal of another predator. 

However, they are still subject to the rules of the jungle and are, as such, prey to some other animals. 

But what animals eat sloths? Check out the list below to find out.

WHAT ANIMALS EAT SLOTHS

Any predator of sloths must have keen eyesight because these masters of disguise are hard to spot. 

More often than not, they’re camouflaged amongst the leaves of the trees they dwell in, and they blend well with the colors of tree bark. Sloth predators, therefore, must have a special way in the rainforest to be able to make a meal out of them.

HARPY EAGLES

Eagles are one of the few animals on earth with remarkable eyesight. This great eyesight is the superpower of the eagles, and the harpy eagles are no exception. 

Although all eagles can hunt sloths once they notice them as potential food, the harpy eagle is the most notable. This bird of prey hunts sloths so voraciously that research proves that sloths make up about 79 percent of the harpy eagle’s diet.

Harpy eagles share the same habitat as sloths. They depend on a healthy population of monkeys, sloths, other birds, and many other arboreal animals for food. However, sloths are their easiest prey because, unlike the others, sloths can’t quickly dash off when a harpy approaches them.

Harpy eagles can spend a long time without getting any food. Whenever they have a kill, they can survive on that same hunk of flesh for a long time. This will put less pressure on the sloth population, but it also doesn’t mean that these harpies aren’t active threats to their existence.

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JAGUARS

Jaguars also share the sloth’s habitats, and they survive on many preys in the rainforest, including sloths. Sloths stand no chance against these strong and agile felines. These apex predators hunt primarily on land, but their tree-climbing ability allows them to tactfully ambush the sloth in its natural habitat. 

They both have strong bites and sharp claws to do damage to sloths. In addition, jaguars swim just as well as sloths. Although sloths move faster in the water than on land, this ability doesn’t help when their predators are jaguars because jaguars are known to hunt their prey in the water with ease.

The jaguar possesses so many hunting skills that make it one of the most dangerous predators of sloths. Even when sloths come on land to excrete, these sneaky jaguars will stalk and catch them. You can be sure that wherever a sloth may be, a jaguar can comfortably hunt it down for dinner.

ANACONDAS

Anacondas are also native to the swamps and slow-moving streams of the amazon. They share the same habitat with sloths, which affords them the opportunity to eat sloths.

Anacondas are infamously called water boas because of their capacity to hunt their prey in the water successfully. But a sloth is hardly the anaconda’s first choice meal because it’s considerably larger than the small mammals the anacondas prefer to eat. 

However, an anaconda can eat larger mammals and will go for a sloth when extremely hungry. The anaconda kills by constriction as they are a non-venomous snake. It will wrap itself in coils around the sloth until the sloth dies from suffocation or crushed bones. 

You will typically hear the sloth’s bones breaking as the snake constricts harder every time the poor sloth tries to breathe. 

Digestion time also plays a role in the snake’s ability to prey on animals: anacondas typically retreat to a safe spot when they swallow big prey like sloths. 

The only time a sloth can even survive an encounter with an anaconda is if the anaconda is full. They will hardly ever make a move against prey when full and undergoing digestion.

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MARGAYS AND OCELOTS

Margays and ocelots are both big cats that share the same diet; as smaller animals, including sloths. Like the jaguar, they are skillful tree-climbers. However, margays are better adapted to the arboreal lifestyle than ocelots. 

Nonetheless, this still puts the sloths at enormous risk.

Margays majorly hunt in the trees, taking down arboreal animals like monkeys, birds, opossums, and sloths. Ocelots eat the same thing, but they prefer to hunt terrestrial animals. So, whenever the sloths come down from their canopies, they become easy prey to ocelots.

However, since ocelots and margays share the same habitat and compete for the same food, it isn’t uncommon for them to turn on each other to reduce the other animal’s population.

SPECTACLED OWLS

Sloths aren’t the usual prey of owls, but spectacled owls have been observed to hunt sloths for food. They do this whenever the sloth comes to the land to answer the call of nature. The spectacled owls will deliver fatal pecks on the defenseless sloth and eat its organs.

Cases like this are seldom common, but they’re not rare enough to rule out spectacled owls as a deadly predator of sloths.

HUMANS

Sloth meat is a delicacy for humans in some parts of the world. Even though it is illegal to hunt sloths in the countries where they live, there are still poachers who illegally traffic sloth meat. While some humans hunt sloths for the glory of the hunting games, others hunt sloths for their meat, as it is a great source of protein. 

These activities have contributed to the rapid decline in sloth populations. That is why many sloths are being taken to zoos and nature reserves to ensure their continuity.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sloths might not look like animals that predators would consider eating, but they make a tasty treat to many apex hunters. Some of these animals have special abilities like great vision, tree-climbing, and swimming, which give them an advantage anytime they attack the sloths, putting these gentle herbivores in constant danger.

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