More Endangered Pygmy Sloths Discovered in Panama Than Previously Estimated

First Posted: Jun 26, 2015 10:16 PM EDT

It turns out that there may be more endangered pygmy sloths in Panama than previously estimated. Researchers have found that the population size of the pygmy sloth hasn't been properly counted.

In this latest study, the researchers placed radio collars on 10 sloths in mangroves and tracked their unhurried movements at three- to six-month intervals over a period of three years. Only three sloths remained entirely within the mangroves. Five moved past the mangrove edge into other tree species, and four moved more than 200 meters inland-quite far for a sloth. Coupled with population density estimates, the scientists believe that the island has almost 3,200 individuals.

"The actual population size is most likely somewhere between these two-perhaps 500 to 1,500 individuals," said Bryson Voirin, one of the researchers, in a news release. "In any case, this is extremely small number for an entire species."

There shouldn't be too much optimism for the pygmy sloth's critically endangered status. The island where these sloths live is only marginally protected.

"Declaring the island a wildlife refuge or national park would protect not only the pygmy sloths, but also the other unique species found on the island," said Voirin.

The findings reveal a bit more about this species and show that officials may wish to provide more protections for this particular location.

The findings are published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

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