TSI Two fingered and Three Fingered Leaf Guide .pdf



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TSI Two-Fingered and Three- Fingered
Tree Guide

Tree Guide (for feeding) for Two-Fingered Sloths (Choloepus
hoffmanni) and Three-Fingered Sloths (Bradypus variegatus) in
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

Editor: Sam Trull
Authors: Sarah King and Tom Lawrence

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 3
Tree List ..................................................................................................................................... 4
Mango – Mangifera indica *Two-Fingered* ...................................................................................... 4
Water Apple – Syzygium malaccense *Two-Fingered* ...................................................................... 4
Beach Almond – Terminalia catappa *Two-Fingered* ....................................................................... 5
Hibiscus – Hibiscus rosa-sinensis *Both* ............................................................................................ 6
Zygia longifolia *Both*........................................................................................................................ 6
Pink Trumpet – Tabebuia rosa *Two-Fingered* ................................................................................. 7
Cinnamon – Cinnamomum cassia *Both* .......................................................................................... 7
Ficus Species *Both* ........................................................................................................................... 8

Ficus benjamina ................................................................................................................. 8
Ficus insipida ..................................................................................................................... 9
Ficus yaponensis ................................................................................................................ 9
Rose Apple – Syzygium jambos *Two-fingered* ..............................................................................10
Malinche – Delonix regia *Two-Fingered* .......................................................................................10
Guarumo – Cecropia spp. *Three-fingered sloths* ..........................................................................11
Gumbo Limbo - Bursera simaruba *Both*........................................................................................12
Ocotea cernua *Both* ......................................................................................................................12
Zapote - Licania platypus *Two-Fingered* .......................................................................................13
Mozote – Inga feuillei *Three-Fingered* ..........................................................................................13
Guacimo – Guazuma ulmifolia *Three-Fingered* ............................................................................14
Star apple – Chrysophyllum cainito *Three-Fingered*.....................................................................15
African Tulip (Flame of the forest) – Spathodea campanulata *Three-Fingered* ..........................15
Guavilla *Both* .................................................................................................................................16
Chupeta - Heisteria concinn *Two-fingered* ...................................................................................16
Alchornea costaricensis *Two-fingered* ..........................................................................................17
Averrhoa carambola – Star Fruit *Three-fingered* ..........................................................................17

Additional Species from Scientific Publications: .................................................................... 18

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Introduction
All sloth species are herbivorous arboreal mammals, therefore making trees an
extremely important resource for their survival. Sloths use trees in every aspect of their
lives: to sleep, play, socialize, locomote, give birth, hide and of course to eat. As a part of
our research, and the training process of preparing sloths for release, we are continuously
updating the list of tree species that we feed to the sloths in our care. While some tree
species are certainly common around all of Costa Rica, it is important to note that this list
reflects our experiences and research working with and studying two-fingered and threefingered sloths in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Tree use and consumption may vary some
depending on the region and habitat. At the end of this document we have also provided a
list of tree species reportedly used by two-fingered and three-fingered sloths in the
literature.
It is important to start offering natural foods/leaves as young as 5-6 weeks in twofingered sloths and 3-5 days in three-fingered sloths so they become accustomed to natural
food sources and to aid in digestion and nutrition. It is important to start offering natural
foods/leaves as young as 3-5 days of age in three-fingered sloths so they become
accustomed to natural food sources and to aid in digestion and nutrition. Both sloth species
seem to have instinctual knowledge about what leaves they should and shouldn’t eat,
however it is still helpful to encourage eating the tree species we know that their wild
counterparts eat regularly. In general, sloths eat the young and tender leaves for each of
these tree species and or the fruit. This is not an exhaustive list as we will continue to
update it whenever possible and still need to identify some tree species.

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Tree List
Mango – Mangifera indica *Two-Fingered*
They will eat only the young newly grown leaves (never the old mature leaves) and
flowers/buds. The young leaves can come in different colors (reddish or light green) but can
also be recognized by a glossy appearance and are soft to the touch. We have also observed
wild two-fingered sloths consuming ripe and un-ripe fruit. Mango trees are also great
resting trees for both sloth species as they provide ample coverage.

Figure 1. Two examples of young mango leaves in the above photos demonstrating their appearance
and also their different colors

Water Apple – Syzygium malaccense *Two-Fingered*
The young, edible leaves of this species are are glossy and light brown. The ripe fruit is
also consumed. The tree can be most easily be recognized when flowering by large clumps
of purple flowers in the tree and on the ground around the trunk.

a)

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

b)

Figure 2. a) A photograph showing the leaves of water apple; all the leaves in the picture are too old
for the sloths b) The photograph shows the young water apples growing.

Beach Almond – Terminalia catappa *Two-Fingered*
The young edible leaves are reddish or light green and very tender. In addition they
will eat the ripe fruits (flesh around the almonds) and the buds. It is best to collect a cluster
of the leaves to mimic natural foraging behavior. However, this will depend upon your
supply and you should be careful not to trim too much from each tree.

Figure 3. Beach almond leaves. The young leaves are located in the
center as are the buds which can be seen in the photo above

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Hibiscus – Hibiscus rosa-sinensis *Both*
Both the flowers and leaves of this species are edible, however the flowers are much
more preferred. Wild sloths have been observed eating the leaves more frequently than
the captive sloths in training. Because this is a species that is often considered an
‘ornamental’ bush on private property, you must ensure that none of the plants you feed
were sprayed with pesticides or fungicides (or any chemicals at all!). There is no evidence
on how these chemicals affect sloths so it is better to be safe. If there is any insecurity
about an area check with the landowner before picking and feeding. We do offer a large
number of flowers but we view these more as a treat rather than being a staple part of their
diet.

Figure 4. The hibiscus flower, they come in many different colors. When
feeding the two-fingered sloths we do leave the stem on the flower and
they will consume that as well

Zygia longifolia *Both*
The young leaves are reddish and tender and this
species is in the legume family. The best young leaves will be
a dark red and they will become more pale as they increase
in age. They produce young leaves sporadically and the
leaves will mature (past edible stage) in just a few days. The
hand-raised sloths will eat the leaves when they are both red
and light red so long as they are soft and tender.

Figure 5. The young leaves of Zygia
longifolia are pictured above
The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Pink Trumpet – Tabebuia rosa *Two-Fingered*
We have observed both our hand raised sloths and wild sloths eating the flowers, the
fruit pods and the leaves of this tree. This tree seems to be a great food source for the twofingered sloths as they can eat all parts of the tree and different parts of the tree are
available year round. The flowers and fruit pods appear in the late dry season and the
leaves appear during the wet season. They are a very common tree in certain areas of Costa
Rica.

Figure 6. Two pictures showing the flowers and fruit pods of the Pink trumpet tree (Tabebuia
rosa) and the fruit pod shown alongside some leaves

Cinnamon – Cinnamomum cassia *Both*
The young leaves are often have a red or pinkish in coloration, and the sloths will also
consume the buds. Cinnamon is considered a favorite species among all the sloths, although
it is not commonly found throughout the forest.

Figure 7. A photograph showing both the young leaves and the
buds from a cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum cassia) (Tan, 2015)
The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Ficus Species *Both*
Various Ficus species are frequently consumed by both species of sloths, including the
young leaves and the fruits. However it can be difficult to always determine the exact
species. The most common species we feed are F. Bejamina which is typically used as a
decorative houseplant. We have observed wild two-fingered sloths and three-fingered
sloths in F. Insipid both using it as a resting location and as a food source. We have seen wild
sloths eating from other ficus trees but are still identifying the exact species.
Ficus benjamina
Although an introduced tree, this species is very common. Three-fingered sloths will
eat not only the young light green leaves but also the little fig fruits when they are in
season. Cutting off larger branches allows this tree to not only provide food but also shelter
and opportunity for foraging. It is typically used as a decorative house plant and can easily
be purchased as a young tree from most nurseries or arborists. With the right care it should
be easy to plant inside an enclosure and be a constant source of food. We regularly see
three-fingered sloth in F. Benjamina and in other species of ficus such as F. Insipid.

a)

b)

Figure 8. a) The leaves of F. benjamina, the young leaves are the lighter colored leaves b) A wild
Brown throated three-fingered (Bradypus variegatus) sloth in a F. benjamina amongst both young
and old leaves
The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Ficus insipida
We have observed wild two-fingered sloths and three-fingered sloths both using it as
a resting location and as a food source.

Figure 9. These photos show the arrangement and leaves of ficus insipida. There are no young leaves
in the photo. The bottom photo shows the trunk of the ficus tree and we have seen these sprouting
‘vine’ like beans coming out. We are not currently certain if this occurs on every ficus insipida.

Ficus yaponensis
We have observed wild three-fingered sloth eat this and we have given it to both our
hand raised two-fingered and three-fingered sloths and they both have eaten it too.

Figure 10. The photo above shows the arrangement of ficus yaponensis. In this photo there
are not young leaves.

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Rose Apple – Syzygium jambos *Two-fingered*
The young leaves are reddish and tender. We have not yet confirmed consumption of
the fruit, however other mammals and birds eat the fruit readily.

Figure 11. Here are two pictures showing the young leaves of rose apple (Syzgium jambos) and the
flowers.

Malinche – Delonix regia *Two-Fingered*
We regularly see the young leaves of this species eaten by wild two-fingered sloths
and we have also seen two-fingered sloth eat the flowers. We have not yet confirmed the
consumption of the seed pods.

Figure 12. Above is the leaves, flower and seed pods of Delonix regia
The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Guarumo – Cecropia spp. *Three-fingered sloths*
Guarumo is often considered “The Sloth Tree” as guides frequently tell tourists that
this is the only species of tree that sloths eat. While it is certainly a favorite food item for
three-fingered sloths, the bias towards the importance of this tree in three-fingered sloth
ecology is likely due to the sparse nature of the leaves making sloth individuals easier to
locate than tree species with a denser leaf arrangement. However, in a captive
environment, it is a great food source to collect because it grows quickly, it is found all over
Costa Rica and all three-fingered sloths should recognize it as food. The young leaves, more
mature leaves, stems and fruit pods are all edible to three-fingered sloths. Most sloths tend
to prefer young leaves from the tallest trees. The oldest trees are also the only ones where
fruit is present. In addition to being quickly growing, tall trees they are also inhabited by
Aztec ants which are very aggressive, so caution should be taken when collecting leaves or
fruits from guarumo. We frequently see wild three-fingered sloths sleeping and eating from
this tree. The species we most frequently use is: Cecropia peltata and if it is stored in a tied
bag moistened with water then the leaves will last at least two days. Two-fingered sloths
eat guarumo as well but only the fruits, not the leaves.

Figure 13. a) The leaves and fruit of Guarumo b) A Guarumo tree

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Gumbo Limbo - Bursera simaruba *Both*
The young leaves are a slightly lighter green with a reddish tinge. The tree is easily
recognized by its bark which appears like it is peeling. This tree is often known jokingly as
“The Tourist Tree”.

Figure 14. The bark of gumbo limbo, which is also known as the tourist tree. The easiest way to recognize it is
by the flaky bark of the tree.

Ocotea cernua *Both*
Tree is recognizable by lilac flowers and the young leaves are a reddish color. We have
currently only observed the consumption of the leaves and the fruits but not the flowers.
The fruits are small balls that are most edible when green and turn black as they age.

Figure 15. The above pictures are of Ocotea cernua, young leaves are not shown in the photos

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Zapote - Licania platypus *Two-Fingered*
Wild two-fingered sloths have been observed eating the young, tender reddish leaves.

Figure 16. The above picture is of Licania platypus, young leaves are not shown in the photo.

Mozote – Inga feuillei *Three-Fingered*
The buds and young leaves are both edible and three-fingered sloths will eat it from
time to time but not always when offered (it is not a favorite). Wild three-fingered sloths
have been observed eating and resting in these trees. There are potentially a few other Inga
species that we are still trying to identify that wild three-fingered sloths have been observed
eating.

Figure 17. Above are pictures showing the buds produced by mozote (Inga feuillei) and the buds and
young leaves of mozote (Inga feullei).

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Guacimo – Guazuma ulmifolia *Three-Fingered*
Guacimo seems to be a staple favorite of most three-fingered sloths living in Manual
Antonio. They will eat both the young leaves, more mature (but not old) leaves, and the
fruits when they are still green and juicy. We feed them the fruits while they are still green.
The fruits eventually turn black and fall off the tree and at this point they are too old and
will not be consumed by the sloths. Guacimo is relatively common tree and can be
recognized by the big angular branches. We frequently see three-fingered sloths in guacimo
and have on one occasion witnessed a two-fingered sloth eating guacimo, however the
hand-raised two-fingered have never been interested in guacimo. The fruit is so popular
that you may need to restrict the amount fed to captive three-fingered sloths if you notice
any soft stools. On one occasion we observed wild two-fingered sloths eating guacimo, but
it does not appear to be a two-fingered favorite.

a)

b)

Figure 18. a) A photograph of a guacimo tree (Guazume ulmifolia) showing the angular branches b)
The leaves of guacimo.

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Star apple – Chrysophyllum cainito *Three-Fingered*
We frequently see wild three-fingered sloths in this tree and have confirmed that the
leaves are edible. The leaf is very recognizable has it has a green top and a brown/gold
bottom.

Figure 19. The leaves of Star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito)

African Tulip (Flame of the forest) – Spathodea campanulata *ThreeFingered*
We have witnessed wild three-fingered sloths eat both the leaves and flowers of this
tree. Tree is recognizable by its orange flowers.

Figure 20. A picture of the African Tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata).

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Guavilla *Both*
There is a species that we know only as guavilla and it is eaten well by three-fingered
sloths but we do not know the exact species yet. They eat the young leaves which are lighter
or reddish in appearance and more tender.

Figure 21. These pictures show the young leaves of guavilla and the adult leaves from guavilla.

Chupeta - Heisteria concinn *Two-fingered*
This species is part of the olacaceae family and we have seen both our hand-raised
and wild sloth eating the young leaves off this tree.

Figure 22. Above show the young leaves of chupeta and their arrangement.

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Alchornea costaricensis *Two-fingered*
We have seen both a mum and baby two-fingered sloth eating from this tree, we did
not directly see them eating the young leaves but we did observe them eating the berries
growing on the branches. We have fed it to our hand-raised sloths and they did eat both the
berries and the young leaves. The good berries are green in colour and the young leaves
have a reddish/light yellow appearance to them.

Figure 23. Above show the young leaves of Alchornea costaricensis (in the right picture) and the
berries on the left image.

Averrhoa carambola – Star Fruit *Three-fingered*
The young leaves are consumed by three-fingered sloths. The leaves of the tree are
pretty small and the tree is very easily identifiable by its fruit which can be seen below.

Figure 24. Above shows the star fruit that this tree produces.
The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

Additional Species from Scientific Publications:
Two-Fingered (Vaughan et al, 2007):
 Erythrina poeppigiana
 Hura crepitans
 Inga oerstediana
 Luehea seemannii
 Ocotea sinuate)
 Pterocarpus officinalis
 Solanum umbellatum
 Spondias mombin
 Theobroma cacao
 Trophis racemose

Three-Fingered (Vaughan et al, 2007 and Raines, 2005):
▪ Chorisia speciosa Silk floss tree or monkey no climb tree Leaves, flowers
▪ Ficus elastica Rubber tree Leaves
▪ Ficus ali Ficus Leaves
▪ Mandevilla splendins Mandevilla vine Leaves, flowers
▪ Pseudobombax spp. Bottle-brush tree Leaves
▪ Anthurium hookeri Bird-nest anthurium Inflourescence only
▪ Montezua spp. — Leaves
▪ Begonia - Begonia Flowers
▪ Bromeliad spp. Bromeliad Flowers
▪ Ceiba pentandra Kapok tree Leaves
The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017

▪ Theobroma cacao Cocoa or chocolate tree Leaves
▪ Anacardium excelsum Cashew tree Leaves
▪ Ficus citrifolia Strangler fig Leaves
▪ Pterocarpus officianalis Sangrillo tree Leaves
▪ Pterocarpus marsupium Sangrillo tree Leaves
▪ Amapalo amarillo Pothos ivy Flowers only
 Goethalsia meiantha
 Luehea seemannii
 Nectandra salicifolia
 Pterocarpus officinalis
 Rollinia pittieri
 Theobroma cacao

References:
1. Tan, H (2015) Larval host plants for Butterflies: The Wild Cinnamon. Found March 2016 on
http://butterflycircle.blogspot.com/2015/05/larval-food-plant-for-butterflies-wild.html
2. Vaughan, C., Ramirez, O., Herrera, G., & Guries, R (2007) Spatial ecology and conservation of
two sloth species in a cacao landscape in Limon, Costa Rica, Biodiversity and Conservation,
Vol 16, 8, pp 2293-2310.
3. Raines, Janis (2005) Captive Health and Husbandry of the Bradypoidae. Zoo Biology. 24:557–
568

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Proprietary and Confidential.
7th February 2017


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