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Unexpected Swimmers: 3 Land Animals That Do Well in Water

sloth from underwater

We all know the usual suspects when it comes to animals that swim: whales, dolphins, sea turtles, tuna. But what about land mammals that need to travel across a body of freshwater, or simply go for a dip to cool down?

Here’s a look at some unexpectedly good swimmers in the animal kingdom.

Tigers are excellent swimmers and don’t avoid water. The large, striped cats have adapted to many different habitats, from the snows of Russia to the tropical forests of Indonesia. Tigers are also found in the Sunderbans, the world’s largest single block of mangrove forest, where they are regularly seen swimming to get from island to island. Between 250 and 400 tigers live in this UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River. Tigers share this unique ecosystem with people, saltwater crocodiles, fishing cats, and various dolphin species.


Though sloths spend much of their time lounging high up in the canopy of the rain forest, they do occasionally plop into water for a swim. They use their long, extended arms to propel themselves. Sloths move slowly and awkwardly across the ground, but can move relatively quickly and comfortably through water. WWF collaborates with governments across the Amazon—where many sloths are found—to create and manage protected areas.


Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth—and still adept in water! Elephants are often seen in the Okavango and other big rivers completely submerged with only the tip of their trunk peeking out like a periscope. WWF’s goal is to see wild elephant populations grow with enough room to roam across large conservation landscapes that allows both people and wildlife to thrive.