Tuesday October 20th 2020 is International Sloth Day!
And what a unique creature the sloth is. There’s no other creature quite like this quiet slow-moving mammal. Native to Central and South America, the sloth is endowed with strong limbs that allow it to hang, for most of its life, in the trees that make up its natural habitat.
The first International Sloth Day was in 2010, started by AIUNAU – a not-for-profit organization in Colombia. They began working on sloth protection in 1996, and eventually created International Sloth Day to raise awareness of the plight of sloths and the dangers that human handling and modern industrialization was causing to sloth populations. Some sloth species have already sadly becoming extinct.
Past International Sloth Days have encouraged followers to celebrate by taking it easy for a day. Be like a sloth – “hang out”, slow down from the crazy pace of life and relax a little.
But this crazy year, the coronavirus pandemic has slowed life down for millions of people, making the notion a lot less relevant. We at Rescate are focusing International Sloth Day on the creature itself. It’s all about honouring and protecting the sloth as an endangered species.
Want to join us? Take this October 20th to make a donation to our Save Rescate fund. This will help us to continue rehabilitating these wonderful animals – such as our little friends below
Meet our orphans
Annie arrived at Rescate last September (2019) as a 5-month-old orphan from Dominical.
During her year with us, she’s continued to improve and gain weight. The final part of her rehabilitation was being moved to an open habitat in the sanctuary where she is free to leave via the trees at her own pace. But because she missed out on important early learning from her mother, it’s taken her a while to make that final step to independence.
Annie finally made that move three weeks ago, and is now back in the wild. She has been spotted free-living in the sanctuary forest. Go Annie!
Frai-Choco is an orphan currently living at Rescate, named partly for Fraijanes in Alajuela province where he was found, and partly for his beautiful chocolate coloured fur. He was found next to his dead mother, though we don’t know what had happened to her.
He was around 3 months old when he arrived in July this year. In the wild, he would normally remain with his mother for 6 to 9 months.
Currently doing well and gaining weight, Frai-Choco likes to eat Ampola Roja leaves and flowers and young cocoa plant leaves. He’s an active little fellow too – he moves around a lot on his surrogate mum and habitat branches.
Young Poasito was found in Poas Cantón. He was recused by Rescate just over a month ago, and on International Sloth Day, we estimate he is just over 10 months old.
Posaito is being fed goat milk three times a day and is now feeding on leaves on his own. This is good news as he wasn’t able to self-feed when he arrived.
All these babies are two-toed Hoffman’s sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni), recognised by a more pronounced snout – and of course, just two strong claws on each paw. The other main species is the three-toed sloth (itself divided into four sub-species) with three claws and the dark facial markings around the eyes.
Sloths are harmed by overhead power lines
Fortaleza (which means ‘strength’ in Spanish) is a two-toed sloth who came to Rescate 5 years ago after encountering a powerline and being electrocuted. The electrocution reduced blood flow to her left-hand paw causing body tissue to develop gangrene. To avoid this spreading, it was necessary to amputate her hand.
After her rehabilitation period with us, it was time for Fortaleza’s release. She was placed in area of sanctuary where she could self-release via the trees. Fortaleza now lives free and this September was sighted in the sanctuary forest. She has also had a baby!
A common misconception is that sloths cannot survive in wild without all limbs. Fortaleza is living proof that they can not only survive but can also breed successfully.
Whilst this is good news, it does not mean we tolerate sloth electrocution. Over 3000 animals are electrocuted every year in Costa Rica, and over half of these are sloths. It’s a threat to their survival and a common cause of babies, like our orphans above, losing their mothers. Insulation of powerlines, cutting back of trees around lines, and anti-scaling devices are desperately needed more widely. There is Government Guidance for electricity companies to achieve this, but the cost means they do not always comply. And so our work with sloths injured by electrocution has to continue.
Cute as they are, sloths are not pets
The sloth’s gentle features, wide “smiling” mouth (especially on the three-toed), docile nature and abundant fur gives it a friendly and cuddly appeal as a “pet”. But the sloth is a wild creature, and like all wildlife, should be allowed to live its life in peace without intervention by tourists and without being captured to serve as exotic ‘pets’.
Baby sloth videos exploded across You Tube a few years ago, and the incredible cuteness of these unusual furry babies brought new popularity to the sloth. On one hand, that’s been ideal in bringing awareness of the species and survival to the world stage. On the other, there was a marked increase in the practice of ‘wildlife selfies’, which we highlighted here.
Sadly, a particularly harmful type of tourism was also taking place, in which tourists were offered the chance to hold a young sloth for a photo opportunity. A sloth struggling slowly in a person’s arms while wearing a hair bow in its fur is cruel, not cute. If you ever get to travel through a sloth’s habitat, please don’t partake in this damaging activity. We want to see it stamped out.
What you can do
By donating here at our Save Rescate fundraiser, you can help us continue to rescue injured, orphaned and captive sloths and rehabilitate them back into their natural habitat. It’s the best way to celebrate International Sloth Day and help sloths like Fortaleza, Annie, Frai-Choco and Poasito!
Learn more about sloths, their feeding and behaviour here.
And if you live in Costa Rica, why not make like a sloth and come “hang out” with us soon! Visit Rescate’s Lifetime Santuary.