페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

selves in a ball, have often more the appearance of excrescences on the bark than that of animals feeding on the foliage, which frequently prevents them from being discovered by the natives, who devour their flesh with avidity."

The sloths suckle their young, who cling to the breast of the mother until able to take care of themselves.

"Intermediate, between the sloth and the armadillo, probably, came two gigantic creatures, which inhabited this earth in a former state, but of which only the fossil remains are now found ;— the megatherium, which was twelve feet long and seven high, and the megalonyx, which was probably little less. It is believed that they were clothed with a scaly shield like the armadillo; the claws were of enormous size."*

The sloth which has been for some years in the gardens of the Zoological Society appears to be a specimen of the collared sloth (Bradypm coUarii). That this animal should live and thrive in our climate is a matter of surprise, and certainly proves the care and judicious treatment it has received. Mr. Burchell had two sloths in a state of captivity, but though in their native country, and supplied with their natural food, they died in a few months. The sloth in the Zoological Gardens is furnished with a pole in its cage, under which it clings, and then presents the appearance of a rolled-up ball of fur. On being roused, its head soon appears, and it begins to move its limbs with great freedom. On the ground it drags itself along with difficulty, but on its perch, or the wire-work of its cage, it is very active. It appears to recognise its keeper, and to be pleased with his playful caresses, uttering a low plaintive cry. It daily enjoys exercise in a large den in which are various perches and branches formed into a kind of tree. If the weather be warm and fine, it is permitted to climb about one of the trees in the paddock adjoining the building where it is kept. Its actions are then very amusing, though it generally proceeds slowly from branch to branch, yet it often travels up or under them with great alertness. While suspended by its claws, it seems fond of rocking the branch, which it does easily from its muscles being so very powerful. It is fed chiefly on plain soaked biscuit; the moisture of the biscuit is the only fluid that the animal ever takes. In a state of nature the sloth is said never to drink. The keeper says that if irritated it could bite with great severity, though it has no fore teeth. It also can strike violently with its fore arms, or inflict a severe wound with its powerful claws. It appears very gentle and not at all timid, coming to the front of the cage and staring intently at whoever comes near it. This animal is about two feet six inches long; the hair is soft and straight, and on the shoulders five inches in length. Mr. Waterton kept a sloth for several months, and when he took him out of the house, the animal would invariably direct his course to the nearest tree. Within doors his favourite station was the back of a chair, and after getting all his legs in a line upon the topmost part of it, he would hang there for hours together, and often, with a low and plaintive cry, would seem to invite the notice of his kind-hearted master.

* Gosse's Introduction to Zoology.

We will now close our account of the misnamed sloth, by hoping that our readers agree with us in thinking, that so far from its being the indolent monster of deformity it has generally been represented, that it is one amongst numberless examples which might be particularly selected as an instance of Divine wisdom and beneficence.

[graphic]
« 이전계속 »