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Panama’s Pigmy Sloth. The Isla Escudo de Veraguas is a small (4.3 km2) isolated Caribbean island, located only 17 km from the Panamanian coastline in the Golfo de los Mosquitos near Bocas del Toro. Its flora and fauna are unique, because 9,000 years ago it was separated from the mainland.
Several animals found on the island are distinct from their mainland counterparts, and two mammal species are recognized as occurring only on the island: the fruit bat Artibeus incomitatus and the sloth Bradypus pygmaeus (also known as the pygmy sloth). This three-toed sloth was only recognized as a distinct species in 2001, and is the smallest of the sloths. It is thought to live predominantly in mangroves spending most of the day hanging upside down in trees sleeping and eating mangrove leaves. It can turn its head up to 270 degrees without moving its body.
Other mammals found on the island include the bats Glossophaga soricina, Micronycteris megalotis, Carollia brevicauda, Myotis riparius, and Saccopteryx leptura, the spiny rat Hoplomys gymnurus, and the opossum Caluromys derbianus.
Soon it will possible to visit this biological marvel through a guided tour conducted by biologist Felipe Baker and Ursula Kinner. The first excursion will be on Saturday, September 10 and will cost $110. It includes an aquatic tour, hiking, observation of mammals and birds, snorkelling and a visit to the local Ngobe Buglé village, food, drinks and snorkel equipment.
Escudo de Veraguas is traditionally the birthplace of the Ngöbe–Buglé people. Until 1995 the island remained largely unpopulated, but since that time Ngöbe–Buglé fishermen from nearby coastal towns have moved in, first using the island as a base for fishing parties and later settling permanently. In 2012, about 120 fishermen and their families were settled on the island.
The island has 26.36 acres (10.67 ha) of mangrove forest (the only known habitat of the pygmy sloth) and 247 acres (100 ha) of coral reef with 55 coral types. It houses over 11,000 species of animals, with an average high temperature of 23 degrees Celsius and a low of 12 degrees Celsius.
Air Panama travels to Changuinola daily and schedules can be found on its web page www.airpanama.edestinos.com.pe