Are sloth primates

Sloth nibbles on human feces

Secretly feed on human feces in the toilets of a field station. Researchers at the German Primate Center (DPZ), who have been stationed in the Peruvian rainforest since 1997 - originally to research New World monkeys, have observed this preference of sloths, which seems unsavory to us.

Over the years, however, they have seen sloths fill their bellies in their toilet more than 25 times. Human feces are usually not on the menu of these primitive mammals, but almost without exception leaves.

Nutritious fecal snack?

The researchers explain the cravings by the fact that the sloths were after the nutrients and bacteria in human feces. Or that the animals ingest minerals and eat larvae that have developed in the toilet.

The researchers were also surprised at how quickly the animals can escape if they are caught red-handed. "Normally, sloths are difficult to observe," says Eckhard Heymann, from the DPZ in Göttingen. "They hang in trees and hardly move," says the researcher. That is why there is so far little information about them.

In order to protect the sloths from possible human pathogens in the faeces, the researchers fenced the toilet. No sloth has been caught in the act since then.

The sloths actually got their name because of the slow-motion speed with which they move. In practice this has its purpose: the animals adapt to their habitat; the motionless persistence in the foliage makes them almost invisible to enemies. The pleasant side effect: their actual main food grows into their mouths.

Author: Hannah Fuchs (with dpa)
Editor: Judith Hartl