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One animal that lick clay and it's not a Macaw

Adela Indriago

Here in the Amazon rainforest we can find a huge diversity of animals and plants, and each one has a strategy to survive and avoid predators, some plants can produce toxins to try to not be eaten by the herbivorous such as parakeets, macaws, tapirs, squirrels, monkeys, sloths ... so, these animals need others strategies to neutralize the toxins from these plants, and one way to do that is consuming clay …

Chuncho Clay Lick by Carl Safina - Tambopata Peru

Chuncho Clay Lick by Carl Safina - Tambopata, Peru

One popular tour in Tambopata is the visit to Chuncho, where is easy to see hundreds of macaws, parrots, and parakeets eating clay in long clays embankment called Collpa. It is an amazing experience that you cannot miss when you visit the Peruvian Amazon jungle.

Besides macaws, a lot of species of mammals can visit clay licks too. This clay helps them to remove toxins from seeds, fruits, and leaves that they get on their usual diet, and also is an extra source of salts and minerals; this activity it’s called Geophagia.

But in this blog, I want to tell you about one species of animals that I saw twice clay licking on the trails at Refugio Amazonas lodge.

After a few raining days we found a Two-toed Sloth mom and her baby, on a side of the trail, on the ground consuming clay. It was an amazing experience to see this charismatic species with a cute baby.

Two toed sloth by Adela Indriago - Tambopata, Peru

Two toed sloth and baby by Adela Indriago - Tambopata, Peru

The Sloths spend almost all the time hanging upside down in the branches of trees, they climb down just to excrete (about once each week) and clay lick. Is their most vulnerable moment, and for this mom and her baby it will be a risk, but the mom needs to do it.

So... the sloths do everything from the trees?

Well, if you have ever asked this question, the answer is yes…

Two toed sloth by Adela Indriago - Tambopata, Peru

Sloths can sleep, mate and give birth on trees, and the mom can travel on the trees carrying her baby for the first five weeks, and the youngster can stay with the mom between six to almost two year, after that they reach the sexual maturity at the age of three years for females and four years for male, it’s sound like a lot of time to get to mature, but that’s typically for big mammals that can live many years.

Two toed sloth by Adela Indriago - Tambopata, Peru
The second time was a few weeks ago, walking to the light trap at night with the low battery from my head-light. After a micro heart attack, I stayed there watching it closely. I guess he did not even realize that I observed him… it stayed there clay-licking for at least 8 minutes, and then it starts to move slowly to a tree; once it held the trunk, it climbs up very fast, at that time, I saw that the sloths are not so slow; in fact, they are quite fast climbing trees, and very good swimmers.

Two toed sloth by Adela Indriago - Tambopata, Peru
Before moving to the southeast jungle of Peru, I did not imagine that everyday living here, it would be a new lesson, a very fun way to discover an immense amount of things, this type of experiences makes me learn more about its greatest biodiversity. This time I have learned a lot about sloths, and I've enjoyed the incredible experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life, I'm sure this Amazon jungle will continue surprising me.

Discover more about the Amazon wildlife at our special section or chat with one of our Rainforest Specialist. And if you are ready to plan your trip :

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