The Sloth spends most of its life upside down, hanging from a tree branch. This cute, little tree-dwelling mammal lives in South and Central America, and is about 2 feet long and weighs about 10 pounds. It looks larger because of its thick fur which is rough and greenish from a thin coating of algae. This provides camouflage among the leaves. It also keeps it buoyant or floatable when the animal is in the water. Sloths are fine swimmers and can stay underwater for a long time if they are threatened.

The front arms of a sloth are longer than the rear ones. Some species have three claws on each arm and are called three-toed sloths. They can turn their heads 270 degrees, almost all the way around. Others have two claws on the front limbs and three on the back and are called two-toed sloth. Sloths are generally solitary animals that only come together for mating. After a pregnancy period of 4 to 6 months, the female bears one young. The baby clings to its mother’s fur for about 5 weeks as it learns to survive.

Sloths are fairly docile creatures when being handled and give the impression of being half-asleep. However, one must be cautious of the sharp claws. Because the animal has little knowledge of fear, it can be found close to human dwellings. Its predators include jaguars and eagles, but because it lives high up in trees, it is relatively free from danger. Both two-toed and three-toed sloths are nocturnal, that is, they are active at night and slow down around sunrise. At this time they appear to be part of the tree. Because the three-toed sloth cannot stand on level surfaces, it is rarely seen on the ground. However, it usually descends to defecate on the forest floor once a week, but moving on the ground is difficult. It must drag itself along by grasping onto objects or toeholds and pulling with its long claws and is so slow that it seems to most observers, not to be moving at all.

From this animal we get another meaning for the word, sloth. It is used to name one of the ‘deadly sins’ which can be described as ‘intense laziness’. It is the “I don't care” feeling. Being good and working hard are difficult virtues to practice and sometimes the whole effort seems too painful and too tiring. This is when you become too lazy to do nice things for your family or friends. In this sense, being a slothful person is opposite to being a loving person who is willing to make the effort to do kind and helpful things for others.

This use of the word sloth may be very unfair to such a harmless creature which happens to be unable to move any faster. What do you think?

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