A few weeks back, I watched an episode of a show on Netflix, something called Monster Hunter or something with a similar title. Mostly the show was given to exaggeration and stunts to make it more interesting, with little real substance. However they did interview a Dr. David C. Oren, an American ornithologist, who is convinced that giant ground sloths still live in the Amazon. He seemed at least credible in that he was a biologist with a PhD, with extensive experience in the region and who had interviewed locals.
To those who don’t know, giant ground sloths are presumed to be extinct as only fossil evidence a few thousand years old has been found. They’re a large group containing a few different families. I’ve worked casting some of these guy’s skeleton’s for display, and they would be incredibly terrifying to encounter alive. They had enormous claws, so big they don’t seem real, some of them had dermal armor to protect them from claws and teeth.
I was intrigued by the idea that giant ground sloths could still be living deep in the South American rain forests but thought it was probably just a fantasy. Then I was on my way to work listening to the audio book The Cloud Forest by Peter Matthiessen and he mentioned finding a giant jaw bone in the Amazon. He even mentioned how un-fossilized it looked. From his description, it sounds like this could very easily be from a giant sloth and maybe it wasn’t just preserved to look young by local conditions, maybe it WAS young. Rain forests are notoriously hard places to find fossils in, maybe this was he bone from a recently dead giant ground sloth.
The point of this post isn’t to convince you that there are giant ground sloths living in the Amazon, or dinosaurs in the Congo or that Loch Ness contains an ancient Plesiosaur. The point is, even as we live in an age of mass extinction, there is much left to be discovered. New species are discovered every year. Gorillas were once thought to be nothing more than legend. So many of the life forms we have classified, we know little more about than the scientific name we’ve given. It is my hope that we leave enough of the planet’s wild places in tact that there will always be some mystery out there, something left to be discovered or explored.
For those who are still curious, you can read an old New York Times article about the search for living giant ground sloths here.