Have you ever met someone who doesn’t like sloths? No, you haven’t. And if you have, they aren’t your friend. Sloths may be slow, look strange, and have unexpected fur, but there is nothing sinful about loving these peaceful creatures. Yet, sloths need more than your love and affection. These always-smiling loveable creatures are susceptible to death and injury at the hands of humans and human creations. From power lines to cars, the slow, languid nature of the sloth is not compatible with the fast, frenzied nature of human existence, and they often pay the price.
Sloths live only in Central and South America. There are six species of sloths, which are divided into two families – two-toed and three-toed sloths. Did you know there used to be sloths in North America? In fact, North American sloths roamed the United States 10,000 years ago and used to be as big as elephants! Unfortunately, there are no more sloths left in the United States. Today, sloths are much smaller and roam a far smaller region. Sloths have an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years in the wild but live a little longer in captivity. Fortunately, some sloths who live in captivity do so for reasons of pure survival.
Costa Rica: The Save Haven for Sloths
Costa Rica has one of the highest concentration of sloths in the world. As a result, the two species of sloth that live in Costa Rica are not considered endangered. Conversely, maned sloths in Brazil and Pygmy sloths in Panama are endangered. Although the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth and Brown-throated sloth – the two dominant species in Costa Rica – are not endangered, they are very often in danger, thanks to human activity.
As one of the most biodiverse countries in Central America, Costa Rica has so much to offer the intrepid traveller. Whether you spend time exploring Costa Rica at your own pace or work with conservationists on the Osa Peninsula, there is so much to do and see the land of pura vida. Even more, your visit can go a long way to supporting the health and safety of the sloth population.
That’s where The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica comes in. Established in 1992 by Judy and Luis Arroyo, the Sanctuary was the first rescue centre for injured, orphaned and abandoned sloths. Established a 320-acre tropical lowland forest, the Sanctuary was established by the Arroyo’s after an earthquake in 1991 resulted in the shuttering of their birding tour business. Their work with sloths started when a neighbour brought a baby sloth to them after they found it hit by a car. And while the Arroyos had no idea how to care for sloths, they somehow made it work, and now the Sloth Sanctuary is the premier rescue, rehabilitation and research centre for sloths in Costa Rica and, indeed, in the entire region.
Although sloths in Costa Rica are not in immediate danger, deforestation and poaching continue to erode their habitat and eat into their numbers. As the human population in Costa Rica expands into the natural environment, the danger to the indigenous sloth population increases. Sloths are in danger from exposed electrical wires, cars and domesticated animals. Non-insulated power lines electrocute sloths when they mistake them for tree vines. Since sloths are so slow, if drivers are not paying attention as a sloth crosses the road, calamity can strike. Stray dogs often attack sloths if they are on the ground.
Being on the ground is one of the most unsafe places for a sloth, yet they have no choice but to come down, especially if they need to… well, number two. Did you know that sloths take two weeks to digest a meal? As a result, excreting it is quite a process; one that involves them climbing down from the canopy and taking more than a few minutes to do their business. This is a perfect time for dogs or other predators to pounds. Fortunately, sloths are surprisingly good swimmers. Give them a body of water and they can usually make a fast escape.
Smile for a Sloth
Whether you take time out to visit the Sloth Sanctuary or simply help create greater awareness for these oft-misunderstood creatures, you can make a difference. Part of being an eco-conscious traveller includes the desire to learn more about the region you are visiting, both its people and its wildlife. So, if you are visiting Costa Rica, take a moment out to smile for a sloth and do something that will make a sloth smile. Their smiles are just so cute.
Eco Companion is proud to help travellers who want to learn more about how they can live their adventure sustainably. We specialise in offering excursions all over the world that satisfy your desire for a dream holiday while learning how you can make a difference. Speak to an Eco Expert today and find your next dream holiday in Costa Rica!