Life Span Of A Sloth – How Long Are We Blessed With Them?

The adorable and lovable sloth can be found living in the rainforests of Central and South America, as well as in a number of zoos and rescue facilities. So many people have fallen in love with this wonderful creature (myself included) and I believe that the world is a better place with them being in it. I also believe that as humans, we can learn a thing or two from them about slowing down and enjoying life a little bit more. Have you ever wondered about the life span of a sloth? After all, they eat mostly leaves and are the slowest-moving mammal (and one of the slowest-moving animals) on the planet. How long can they survive living this kind of lifestyle?

In this article, I will investigate this further in an attempt to determine the life span of a sloth. I will do so by discussing the following:

  • the sloth’s life span in their natural habitat versus their life span in captivity.
  • the ages that some sloths have reached.
  • comparisons of a sloth’s life span to that of other mammals.
  • threats that sloths face.


Is Life Better In The Wild Or In Captivity?

First and foremost, when speaking of life in captivity, I am not referring to having a sloth as a pet. This is a horrible idea for so many reasons. For more information regarding pet sloths, please see my article titled, “Can Sloths Be Pets? They Are So Cute, But…..“.

Even if sloths are well-cared for by professionals in captivity, they are still not in their natural habitats and being in captivity causes them stress. So, do sloths live longer in the wild or in captivity? After researching various sources and coming up with inconsistent information, it appears that no one has a conclusive answer to this question. The age of a wild sloth cannot be accurately determined and no one has ever tracked a wild sloth from their date of birth to their date of death to determine a life span. So, there are just not enough facts to come up with an answer.

According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “…Captive two-fingered (Choloepus) sloths are known to reach 40-50 years old, however sloths were not bred in captivity until 50 years ago and so there has been little chance for any individual to exceed this figure…..When we consider that sloths in captivity often have elevated stress levels, an excessively sedentary lifestyle and an unnatural diet that is overly high in fructose (diets in zoos typically consist of fruit and vegetables as they cannot source the new-growth tropical leaves that form the sloths natural diet), it seems likely that wild sloths may live longer in the wild than they do in captivity.”


What Ages Have Some Sloths Made It To?

While we do not know for certain how old sloths have lived to in their natural habitats, we do know how old some sloths in captivity have made it to. Here are some examples:

  • In Australia, at the Adelaide Zoo, a sloth named Miss C made it to the age of 43.
  • At the Krefeld Zoo in Germany, one sloth named Lulu turned 45 and another one named Jan turned 46 (both in 2019). As of the writing of this article, I have not found any information indicating whether or not one (or both of them) are still alive.
  • In Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, a sloth lived to be approximately 49. She lived in the Amazonia exhibit there.
  • In Germany, at the Zoologischer Garten Halle (Bergzoo), a sloth named Paula reached the age of 50 in 2019. She was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest sloth living in captivity. This record can be viewed here: Sadly, Paula passed away in 2020.


How Long Are Life Spans Of Other Mammals?

For comparison purposes, let’s take a look at the life spans of two other mammals:

  • Bowhead whales have the longest life span of all mammals. The oldest one (that we know of) lived to be at least 211.
  • Giant tortoises can live long lives and as of the writing of this article, there is a giant tortoise by the name of “Jonathan” that is currently 188 years old.
  • Elephants have relatively long life spans for mammals. An Asian elephant passed away in Taiwan at the age of 86 to be the most senior elephant ever.


Threats That Sloths Face

Sloths face numerous threats to their survival, which means that they could have a substantially shorter life than what is possible for them. Some of these threats include deforestation, vehicle collisions, electrocutions, and actions by humans such as poaching and illegal trafficking. For more information about these threats, check out my article titled, “Are Sloths Endangered? The Sad Reality.”


Home Sweet Home

So, after doing some research and attempting to determine the life span of a sloth, I believe that I have achieved some success (at least with respect to how long some sloths have lived to in captivity). While it is not possible to ascertain a sloth’s life span in their natural habitat, it does appear that they live longer lives in the wild than they do in captivity. To me, this makes sense since they have evolved and adapted over millions of years, they are stressed in captivity, and they are most comfortable being in their natural habitat (which is the best place for them to be).

In this article, I also compared the life span of a sloth with that of a couple of other mammals. Furthermore, I talked a little bit about some of the threats that sloths face. Sloths are such wonderful creatures and it is my hope that we humans are able to appreciate them more, as well as to learn from them… learn to slow down… learn to relax… learn to enjoy life a little bit more.

Thank you for reading this article. I truly hope that you enjoyed it and learned something from it. If you have any comments or questions, please submit them below as I would love to hear your thoughts.

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  • I had no idea that sloths could live that long. Thank you for sharing.

  • Eleanor Notley says:

    Love this article! Sloths are adorable. I saw the one at the Adelaide zoo!

    • I’m so glad that you enjoyed the article and I totally agree with you that sloths are adorable. I might be a tad bit jealous that you got to see Miss C at the Adelaide Zoo, but I am also very happy for you that you were able to have that experience.

  • Sloths are beautiful animals! It is wonderful that they can live such long lives. One would think that they would face more dangers since they move so slowly, but perhaps they live such long lives because they know to take it easy 😉 and to slow down, something we should also learn to do, I agree.
    I was amazed to read the lifespan of that whale! 211 years? Wow! That is impressive!
    I hope that human threats will be decreased and more consciousness will be created. As for sloths in captivity, now that we have spent months locked up in our houses, many of us have come to realize how terribly frustrating animals’ lives in zoos are, even in the most beautiful zoos. Locked up is locked up, regardless of the surroundings. I have seen many posts in social media, comparing the lockdown to animals in zoo, and people that are waking up to the reality of zoos.
    Great, educational website. I am happy to have found this!

  • Can you imagine living 211 years!!! That is crazy!
    In re: to do sloths live longer in the wild or in captivity. To me the answer would be clear, I would say they would live longer in the wild. In their natural habitat. But that’s my very unscientific opinion.
    Christine (in comment above) makes such a good point. Maybe humans can or have gotten a taste of what it’s like to be held in captivity.
    This is really great information. Thank you.

  • This is a new information I was not even aware of! You’ve written a beautiful article and highlighted all the aspects of sloth’s age. So, looks like they are happier and thus live longer in their natural habitat in the wild. Who knows how long a sloth lives in their best environment. That will be an interesting fact.

    Many thanks for another amazing post.

    • Thank you for your comments and I am so glad that you enjoyed this article and also learned something new today.

      I agree that it will be interesting to see how long a sloth can actually live in their best environment.

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