It is no question that sloths have somewhat taken over the internet with their cute button noses and sweet faces.
Many times, when you’re scrolling through social media, you’ll see a video named “Giving a Baby Sloth a Bath” or “Snuggling a Sloth.” This growing trend on social media has brought more awareness toward sloths as the staple cute and lazy animal. While these videos may seem harmless, the unfortunate truth is that these two- and three-fingered sloths may not be in the best care, and without knowing the exact circumstances, they could be living in a very stressful environment.
Historically, sloths have been a very successful arboreal species. The two species we care for at the Toucan Rescue Ranch are Hoffman’s two-fingered sloth and the Brown-Throated three-fingered sloth, which both can be found throughout Costa Rica. As canopy dwellers, the rainforest has provided them with the resources they need to live healthily and without much threat. However, growing human interactions, including posts on social media, have created significant threats to all sloth species.
Deforestation due to land development for agriculture, logging, houses, and livestock has reduced the number and size of habitual spaces for sloths. With humans, many external threats follow such as stray and domestic dogs, who often attack sloths, and power lines connecting fragmented canopy that end up electrocuting sloths, damaging nerves and usually ending with the need for amputation. In tandem with these threats, there is an increasing demand for sloths in the illegal pet trade, which partly is fueled by sloths seen on social media. As we move deeper into the rainforests and coastlines and use sloths as a media trend, threats to its survival increase.
On the bright side, since these threats are all human-induced, we have the power to make better choices to benefit the sloths and the rainforests in which they live. If you want to contribute to sloth longevity, here are five different ways you can help save the sloths:
1. Be a smart eco-tourist
More information is online than ever before, and people are starting to notice the economic benefits of wildlife tourism, even if that means sacrificing the animals’ well-being. When you travel, take it upon yourself to research places and activities before you partake in them. Never participate in “street shows,” which usually involve animals in small cages or on leashes, and require money if you want to take a picture. If the animal is being restrained or abused for your enjoyment, that attraction is a no-go. Also, keep in mind labels like “sanctuary” and “rescue center” are not always a telltale sign of legitimacy, be sure to research their social media and website, travelers’ reviews, and their core ethos to ensure your hard-earned dollar is going to healthy, sustainable, and lawful organizations for sloths or other animals.
2. Educate others
Clue people in on the threats that sloths face and how to avoid contributing to them! Children are especially receptive to learning about animals, and educating them on conservation is a great way to inspire them to take action. Many people are simply unaware of their negative impact on wildlife, especially tourists. By taking the time to educate others about this situation, they often take the correct steps to reduce that impact.
3. Plant a tree (or a few!)
If you live within a sloth’s natural range, you are lucky to have the power of planting! As healthy rainforests shrink due to deforestation, sloth populations shrink as well. You can re-invite them into their natural range by planting certain trees that provide nourishment. Examples of trees you could plant are Cecropia, Mountain/Beach Almond, Hibiscus, Zygia, Poro, Mango, and Cacao!
Donate your time by volunteering at rescue centers that focus on the rehabilitation and release of wildlife. What could be more impactful than helping sloths and actually contributing to their rescue, rehabilitation, and release? Nothing! Organizations like the Toucan Rescue Ranch are always in need of volunteers to ensure the health and safety of our animals. Volunteers do not need any medical background — just open ears and a passion for wildlife! Learn more: http://bit.ly/TRRGetInvolved
5. Donate or symbolically adopt a sloth at TRR
If volunteering is not possible for you, meaningful donations to our Saving Sloths Together Fundwould be very appreciated. Saving Sloths Together is a partner project TRR has with The Sloth Institute that focuses specifically on sloth care. Since TRR receives many orphaned sloths, this project helps contribute to the specific resources needed to raise them from a couple of months to their actual release. Additionally, you can symbolically adopt the sloths at TRR.