Sloth vs. Koala: What's the Difference?

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They both have that cute, cuddly look and both have become two of the world’s most beloved tree-hugging mammals, but are Sloths and Koalas related? Let’s take a look and some similarities, and differences, between these two amazingly fascinating animals!

What is a Koala?

The koala, or koala bear, is one of the most iconic animals in Australia, and it’s no wonder why! A member of the Phascolarctidae family, these adorable marsupials are found in coastal forests throughout the Australian continent and have become a customary symbol of Australian wildlife. Despite their name, koalas are not actually bears. In fact, because they are more closely related to kangaroos and wallabies. Koalas have excellent climbing skills, mainly because of their sharp claws that help them grip tree bark.Koalas are nocturnal animals, and prefer to spend most of their time sleeping in the trees.

What is a Sloth?

One of the most unique and fascinating creatures on our planet, the sloth has grown in popularity as a “favorite” among animal lovers worldwide. The sloth has a scientific classification in the order Pilosa. They are tree-dwelling mammals that are known for their slow movement and can mostly be found in the lowland tropical forests of South and Central America.

Considered the world’s slowest animal, they move at such a moderate pace that algae can actually grow on their fur. More than half of all sloths grow these algae, which gives their coarse, brownish-gray coats a greenish hue during the rainy season. This green fur provides an advantage as it acts as camouflage to help sloths blend in among the trees. This is the sloth’s best defense against its predators, which include jaguars, ocelots, large bird species (such as eagles), and humans.

Sloth vs. Koala: Size Comparison

Sloths are divided into two groups based on how many toes they have: Two-Toed and Three-Toed sloths. Per their name, two-toed sloths have two toes on their forelimbs, and three-toed sloths have three. Two-toed sloths tend to be the bigger of the two groups and have more ribs.

Two-Toed Sloth

The two-toed sloth, or Choloepus didactylus, gets its name from the two large claws on its forelimbs. Each claw can grow up to 3 inches in length! Two-toed sloths can grow to an average of 2 ½ feet long and weigh an average of 13 lbs.

Three-Toed Sloth

Slightly smaller than their two-toed counterparts, three-toed sloths actually have very short, stubby tails that are two or three inches long. They can grow to an average of 1.5 feet long and weigh an average of 10 lbs.

Koala

Size wise, Koalas are pretty similar to sloths. They relatively small animals, with adult males typically weighing between 20 and 30 pounds. Koalas can range from 2 to 2.5 feet in length.

Sloth vs. Koala: What Do They Eat?

Although both two-toed and three-toed sloths enjoy leaves and plants for a fresh snack, two-toed sloths are omnivorous, meaning they will also consume meat as part of their diet. Three-toed sloths tend to be strictly herbivorous and prefer leaves from the cecropia tree. Two-toed sloths will also snack on fruits, insects, and small lizards.

Did You Know?  Because they have multichambered stomachs filled with symbiotic bacteria that breaks down cellulose, Sloths digest food slower than they eat it. In fact, it can take up to a month for a sloth to digest a single meal!

Koalas have a favorite main staple of their diet: Eucalyptus leaves! They also consume a wide variety of other plants, but koalas have been known to eat more than 500 different types of eucalyptus leaves. Koalas also enjoy acacia, flowers, and even bark when necessary.

Did You Know? Koalas not only eat eucalyptus leaves for food, but they get most of their water intake from these leaves as well!  As a result, they don’t need to drink water very often. When they do drink, they usually lick dew off of their fur.

Sloth vs. Koala: Lifespan 

Three-toed sloths have an average lifespan of 25-30 years, however their two-toed counterparts in the wild typically live for 20 years. Both groups have been known to live longer than 30 years in captivity with good care.

Koalas have an average lifespan of about 10 years in the wild. Those in captivity can live up to 20 years old with proper care.

Are Sloths Endangered? 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN, only one of the sloth species has a classification of Critically Endangered and that is the pygmy three-toed sloth. The maned three-toed sloth is classified as Vulnerable at present. Significant deforestation in South America may soon prove a threat to others. Sloths continue to face challenges to their existence such as habitat destruction, road-building, traffic, power lines, tourism, and the pet trade.

Are Koalas Endangered?

The IUCN Red List status for koalas is Vulnerable The koala is an endangered species due to habitat loss and hunting. Habitat loss occurs when trees are cut down and rebuilt, making it difficult for the koala to find food and shelter. Koalas are also high target hunting animals and are killed for their fur.

SeaQuest is committed to protecting our world’s oceans and endangered animals. We focus on how to be proactive in finding solutions. To meet the wonderful sloths that call SeaQuest home,  book your visit today at any of the following locations: UtahLas VegasDallas-Fort WorthDenverSacramentoMinneapolisConnecticutLynchburgNew Jersey, and Atlanta.

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