Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Urban Safari: The ten-toed sloth

The undergrowth is dense.
The light is dim.
A musty smell hangs in the air.
There is a faint rustling of something moving - veeeerrrrrryyyyy slowly - unseen in the depths of the flora before us.

Carefully and quietly, we make our way towards the sound. Unsure exactly what awaits us, we're hoping for a glimpse of a shy, slovenly animal with no known sense of urgency (until the need to eat strikes).

But patience is the naturalist's ally, and our hours of waiting at the entrance to its lair (interspersed by distant bird-like cries of "Get up NOW!") are finally rewarded by the sight of our prey.

There it is, blinking bemusedly in the half-light, and languidly looking around at its habitat with the question "Wha-aaa?" in its semi-opened eyes.

It's the legendary giant ten-toed sloth (scientific name: adolescentius lethargious). Magnificent, isn't he?

We've all heard tales of this mythical creature, but some never quite believed it existed outside of the horror stories of parents of teenage boys.

But there it is, in all its glory, looking amiably at us through its matted fringe, confident in the knowledge that we mean it no harm.

Inch-by-inch it painstakingly makes its way out from beneath its bedding undergrowth, lethargically rubbing the tangled pelt that serves so well as camouflage in the 18 hours a day it spends stock-still.

An hour later, it has moved from its supine position to sitting on the edge of its nesting site. And then it stops and stares into a space on the forest floor about two feet in front of it....

Then, a mere two hours later, it makes its move - labouriously making its way to the water hole for its morning ablutions.

It's an epic journey, against all odds, but the ten-toed sloth is spurred on by threats of disappearing PlayStations and possible lifetime captivity enforced by its keepers.

All the ten-toed teenage sloth's daily endeavours are focused on feeding. Despite its langourous demeanour, it has a fearsomely fast metabolism. Its economy of exertion requires collosal amount of fuel to feed it.

Much of the day is spent foraging its territory for tasty morsels to keep them going and prevent their usual speed of very slow dropping a notch to..... stop.

It's omnivorous, hoovering up almost everything it finds with surprising vigour before returning to its usual laid-back hanging around.

Some observers find the ten-toed sloth a frustrating animal, lacking motivation or direction.

But it's hard to resent them their admirable angst-free stance, especially when they turn and give you a lazy but well-meaning smile.

After all, who can stay mad at their 14-year-old son for long?


  1. Haha. Love the ending to this. Brilliant xx

    I should have guessed at the disappearing playstations ;) x

  2. Very good! well written description ... of both!