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International Sloth Day

International Sloth Day is all about appreciating sloths. It raises awareness about them and aims to help preserve their habitat and to keep them from being harmed. The day was created by AIUNAU, a non-profit foundation based in Columbia that focuses on conservation and wildlife. The day came out of the "first international meeting about the wellbeing, rehabilitation and conservation of sloths," which was held in November 2010 in Medellin, Columbia.

Sloths are native to the rainforests of Central and South America. Known for being slow, they spend most of their time hanging upside down on tree branches in rainforest canopies. They usually sleep between fifteen and twenty hours a day, and when they are awake, they often sit motionless. They are the slowest mammal on Earth, traveling 41 yards a day on average, less than half the length of a football field. Although they move slowly on land, they are quite agile in water, being able to swim about three times as fast as they can walk. They also can hold their breath for up to forty minutes. They mainly subsist on a vegetarian diet, eating leaves, shoots, and fruit. Because their metabolism is so slow, it takes them close to a month to digest a single leaf.

Sloths have two layers of fur, with the outer layer being long and coarse and housing fungi and insects like beetles, cockroaches, and moths. The fur also is often home to algae, which gives it a green hue and helps the sloth camouflage itself amongst vegetation. Another thing that sloths keep close to themselves is their young. A baby sloth will cling to its mother for six months after birth, and then will stay close to her for two to four years afterward.

There are six species of sloths, which are divided into either three-toed sloths or two-toed sloths. The distinction is in the number of digits on their front limbs—both have three digits on their back feet. Two-toed sloths are a bit larger, while three-toed sloths are more docile and are found in fewer areas of the rainforest. Sloths are about two and a half feet in length and usually weigh between nine and seventeen pounds. There were more species of sloths in the past, and some were much larger. For example, the extinct giant ground sloth grew between ten and twenty feet in length.

The biggest threat that sloths face today is habitat destruction. They also are targeted by those working in the exotic pet trade and are killed by people who present them to tourists to have pictures taken with them. Some sloths are endangered. The pygmy three-toed sloth—the smallest sloth—is critically endangered, while the maned three-toed sloth is endangered. These examples help to illustrate the importance of International Sloth Day.

How to Observe

Some ways you could take part in International Sloth Day include:

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