sloth – [slawth or slohth]
The tour started at 7:30am; I started the day early with an early morning yoga session followed by a walk to the local bus station, only partially sure I was on the right road, my heart soared when I heard the buzz of the local traffic humming by, I was indeed on the right track. Along with some locals I waited at the bus stop not really sure what time the bus would come, remember we are on Costa Rican time which simply means there is NO time but sure enough it showed up with enough time to get me there before 7:30; $2 and I was on my way. I asked the driver to let me off at the perezoso (Spanish for sloth) sanctuary. He muttered something in Spanish seeming annoyed at the inconvenience. I was not confident he understood what I had asked nor that he would actually make the stop, I kept my eyes firmly on the road and as soon as we crossed the bridge, my only landmark, my excitement started mounting. I was looking at the driver in the rear view mirror and noted that he was also looking at me, he did understand me and were getting close. As we arrived, he motioned to me with his eyes in the rear view mirror, I thanked him and got off the bus. The front gate locked and no one around luckily it was easily unlatched from the outside, I let myself in and wandered to the reception area. No one around. Finally coming into contact with a maintenance worker who told me “its closed” in broken english, I said inside tour, he nodded and pointed me in the right direction. With breakfast included I was shown to a beautiful patio where I was served a delicious breakfast including fruit, juice, tea, a greasy hash brown, egg and toast – delicious. In the foyer there was Buttercup, the local sloth! She was sound asleep all curled up in a ball, I started talking to her telling her she was so beautiful; she opened her eyes and looked right at me. A moment!
We started the tour with a canoe ride through the jungle, myself and a couple from Switzerland snaking through the jungle, lots of beautiful plants, banana trees, the howler monkey howling in the background, bugs lots of bugs. A beautiful time for a visual meditation, slow, quiet and very lush and green along with lotus flowers, my spiritual flower.
Next we met our tour guide along with all the people doing the buttercup tour.
A wealth of knowledge, a good sense of humour and a charming man.
Sloths are mammals classified in the familiesMegalonychidae (two-toed sloths) and Bradypodidae (three-toed sloths), including six extant species. They are named after the capital sin of sloth because they seem slow and lazy at first glance; however, their usual idleness is due to metabolic adaptations for conserving energy. Aside from their surprising speed during emergency flights from predators, other notable traits of sloths include their strong body and their ability to host symbiotic algae on their furs.
There are two types of sloths, 2 toed and 3 toed.
Let’s start with the two toed sloth.
These cuddly guys have long hair and are often hard to see because they look like a ball of fur when curled up high in a tree. They have a wider variety of diet eating leaves and fruit. These guys have K9 teeth with a jaw that is stronger than a pit bull, occupy more of the natural forest along the rivers because of their excellent swimming ability.
The three toed sloth has short hair and a much longer neck with faces that make you fall in love at first sight. They only eat leaves, their teeth are smaller like molars, this sloth would unfortunately drown if he fell into the water, they have no ability to swim.
Sloths are arboreal mamals which means they live up in the trees, they have a difficult time walking as they pull their front arms in close (like you would for a push up) and snake them along the ground. Sloths don’t walk much because being on the ground is simply dangerous.
Why are they covered in hair but living in the tropics? Because they are so slow they do not generate any body heat, to keep warm. Although they are coined “lazy” these animals are intelligent enough to know how to conserve their energy.
Why are sloths so slow? Because of their low calorie diet, they simply have no energy. They have an extremely slow digestive process with 4 stomaches the food spending at least a week inside each stomach, 30-50 days for complete digestion. They have no body fat and very little muscle mass (20%). These are animals of adaptation, they conserve their energy and use it only when necessary. Sloths can move fast in an emergency using their claws to swipe out in protection.
Sloths only defecate and urinate 1 x a week, they carry around 2.5lbs of poo and 1-2 litres of pee. Once a week they climb down from the tree, dig and hole do their business, bury it and climb back up to safety. Not only are they intelligent but considerate and polite too!
Why are there so many sloths at the sanctuary? For various reasons including both humans and nature. Sloths are injured or killed the most by power lines. Because of their absolute cuteness humans think these little creatures would make good pets and take them home only they are not they are wild animals and will bite and scratch you. Being solitary animals living with a family of humans would not be a welcomed existence. Sloths can live up to 30 years old, humans generally don’t want that kind of responsibility they get bored and releasing the sloth back into the wild where they no longer have the skills to survive. Humans also find it desirable to poach and sell these animals on the black market and make a profit, money.
Nature is nature, trees falling, predators, and diseases.
Abandonment is another common reason when something is wrong with the baby, whether it is weak, sick or deformed the mother will abandon the baby. Something as simple as the baby being unable to hold onto mama for some reason and it falls to the ground, the mama will rescue the baby a few times but after that she will leave the baby to die, its not worth the risk. Sometimes babies are born with a cleft palate and cannot suck which means they cannot feed, the mother will abandon the baby.
Sloths mate in 40 seconds; energy efficient even in mating. They become pregnant every time they mate, the females continuously give birth to a baby every 11 months (gestation). The sloth pregnancy is undetectable, her diet does not change, her body does not change, the babies are born small but complete with fur, teeth, nails with the eyes open. The babies are born up in the tree, 15-20 minute labour, the mother lays down, catches the baby and puts the baby on her chest, she cuts the umbilical cord with her sharp nails. The baby stays with the mother for one year of education and every day counts. The mother breastfeeds the baby for the first 2 months and then introduced leaves, after about 7 months the mother weans the baby from breast milk and she become fertile again starting the cycle all over. Children stay with the mothers for only one year they are taught everything they need to survive on their own, after one year they are release in the jungle to survive on their own and to live solitary life. The mother gives birth to her second child soon after the first is gone, this cycle continues for the life of the female sloth.
62% of the sloths at the sanctuary are permanent residence. The goal or aim with each sloth is rehabilitation and return to the wild, unfortunately many of the sloths brought into the sanctuary have injuries that prevent them from returning to the wild.
We were fortunate enough to visit the “slothspital” where hundreds of sloths are in various stages of recovery.
They perform necropsy, an autopsy for animals, right there in the hospital. The sanctuary is working hard to find out more about these animals by performing necropsy right there on the facility. One veterinarian works full time at the facility taking care of the hundreds of sloths brought to the facility each year. All the sloths at the facility are given a basic check up every three months. Sloths don’t have health care. The facility does not receive any government funding yet most of the animals brought to the sanctuary are brought in by government officials, police, fire and park rangers. The facility runs completely on donations, fund raising and tours. If your heart has a soft spot for sloths and you are want to contribute or give a gift to someone special this organization offers a very special adoption program. See below.
Become a Compadre to virtually adopt a rescued sloth! Your donation goes toward the sloths’ nutrition, wellness and essential research. Your generosity benefits all the sloths in our care.
Give as a gift! Just email us the lucky person’s name and delivery address.
PAYMENT OPTIONS: One-time payment or 4 installments
Single payment: $80 USD
Our final destination and by far the cutest and more heart warming of them all, the babies. Our guide asked if we were ready for an overload of cuteness – yes, absolutely!
There are no words …
The sanctuary was an absolute dream come true!