Temporal and spatial resource use by female three-toed sloths and their young in an agricultural landscape in Costa Rica
The information on ecological behavior of wild sloths is very scarce. In this study we determined the home ranges and resources used by three adult female three-toed sloths (Bradypus variegatus) and their four young in an agricultural matrix of cacao (Theobroma cacao), pasture, riparian forests and living fencerows in Costa Rica. Births occurred during November-December and the young became independent at five to seven months of age. Initially, mothers remained fixed in one or a few trees, but expanded their use of resources as young sloths became independent from them. Mothers initially guided the young to preferred food and cover resources, but they gradually left their young in small nucleus areas and colonized new areas for themselves. Home range sizes for young sloths (up to seven months of age) varied between 0.04-0.6 hectares, while home range sizes for mothers varied from 0.04-25.0 hectares. During the maternal care period, 22 tree species were used, with the most common being Cecropia obtusifolia (30.9%), Coussapoa villosa (25.6%), Nectandra salicifolia (12.1%), Pterocarpus officinalis (5.8%) and Samanea saman (5.4%). However, young sloths used only 20 tree species, with the most common being C. villosa (18.4%), S. saman (18.5 %) and N. salicifolia (16.7%). The cacao agroforest was used only by mother sloths and never by their young following separation. However, in the riparian forest, both mother sloths and young used the tree species. A total of 28 tree species were used by the mother sloth; including the food species: C. obtusifolia, C. villosa, N. salicifolia and P. officinalis. However, the young used 18 trees species in this habitat with N. salicifolia and S. saman most commonly used, although they rested and fed during the day in C. obtusifolia, C. villosa and O. sinnuata. The cacao agroforest with adjacent riparian forests and fencerows provides an important habitat type that links the smaller secondary forests and other patches.
Keywords: B. variegatus, spatial distribution, home range, maternal care, resource use, cacao agroforest, agricultural landscape.