Amazonian Sloth Escapes Ocelot in Rare Encounter


| LAST UPDATE 08/11/2023

By Stanley Wickens
sloth Amazon wildlife research
Steven Paton via Pexels

There's an old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover," and seems the animal kingdom has its own version of this timeless wisdom. This tale revolves around the sloth, a creature notorious for its languid pace and tree-hugging habits, and an ocelot - a formidable predator in the Amazonian wilderness.

A sloth, engrossed in a daytime snack, was suddenly interrupted by an ocelot on the hunt. One might expect the sloth to be an easy meal, but nature has a way of surprising us. Captured by a camera trap in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, this footage reveals the unexpected - the sloth fighting off and escaping the predator. This unique encounter took place at a mineral lick, or saladero, a boggy area that can be a dangerous visit for any creature. The footage shows the sloth, with surprising agility, warding off the ocelot with some quick jabs, creating enough distance to allow a brisk escape along a log.

ocelot Amazon wildlife research
Jesus Alzamora via Pexels
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Such footage is extremely rare, as pointed out by researchers from Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, University of Texas, Austin, and Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador. Predation attacks are seldom caught on camera, sloths typically visit mineral licks under the cover of darkness, and sloths have not been known to be a target for ocelots. Anthony Di Fiore, an anthropologist from the University of Texas at Austin, notes that both two-toed sloths and ocelots are elusive and challenging to study due to their quiet and hard-to-find nature. The researchers couldn't confirm if the sloth escaped entirely unscathed due to the camera trap's limited field of view. However, a return to the scene two days later revealed no evidence of sloth remains.

Sloths are rarely seen visiting mineral licks - only one visit was recorded over almost 4,000 nights in a 2011 study. The recent footage offers valuable insights into the habits of both species. Ocelots typically prey on smaller creatures like snakes, turtles, and frogs, but they have been known to attack larger animals. Di Fiore remarks, "This video provides a snapshot of interesting aspects of the natural history of both species." It uncovers a possible predator-prey relationship previously overlooked and reveals diurnal activity of the predominantly nocturnal two-toed sloth. This research has been published in Food Webs.

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