Did you know that October is International Sloth Month, and today (10/20/16) is International Sloth DAY?!
My love for sloths started back in 2014 when I had the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica for a summer. I wanted to give back via volunteering while there, so I found the Toucan Rescue Ranch and applied for a volunteer position. We had a Skype interview while I was still in the states, and I learned that I would get to work with a strange, bear/koala-like creature: the sloth. I definitely do not consider myself a “animal-person” by any means, so the idea of working with these exotic creatures didn’t exactly thrill me at first.
All that changed when I first stepped foot on the grounds of the Toucan Rescue Ranch in San Josecito de Heredia, Costa Rica. I never knew what it felt like to experience love at first sight until I met Cooper, Milo, and sweet baby Bella. They mystified me, and I was instantly and irreversibly in love with them.
The main work I did while at the ranch was prepare food for the two-toed sloths. The two-toed sloth that made the biggest impact on me was Milo: the sloth had a personality and a half. He was a little horn-dog, and would make cooing noises at his enclosure mate Millie and attempt to touch her through the fence separating them. He also had an auto-immune disorder that made it difficult for him to regulate his body temperature. He was well aware of his disposition, but the moment it began to rain (as it did everyday around 2pm- rainy season in Costa Rica!) he’d crawl out of the safety of his bed, down to the ground, and proceed to splash until someone came to rescue him and put him on the couch inside.
I remember the first time I tried to give him food: I placed it in front of him expecting him to feed himself. Instead, he glanced at me, then the bowl, then back at me and lay his head back down. Sass! I picked up a carrot and held it near his nose. He slowly reached his hand up to take it from me, and then ate it. He was quite the attention hog, but I loved him for it.
Then there were the babies: Bella and Marley. These two little ladies were orphaned at a young age and Ms. Leslie (founder of the Toucan Rescue Ranch), played the role of, “Sloth Mom.” She would feed them goat’s milk every few hours from a syringe, and ensure their utmost comfort and security. Sloth babies are created to hold onto their mothers for at least their first year of life. However, when sloth babies are either abandoned or orphaned, this tendency to “latch-on” doesn’t simply go away. Thankfully Bella had Marley and Marley had Bella. They were constantly in a state of hard-core embrace, and downright adorable while doing it 🙂
So in honor of all the sloths that stole my heart, here are 10 reasons that sloths serve as a beautiful reminder to:
- Slow down & stress less
- Help others (Sloth hair serves as a living ecosystem supporting multiple other forms of life!)
- Manage priorities (hello…SLEEP!)
- Embrace diversity (there are 6 different species of sloth- 2 different types)
- Try new things (Sloths can swim, climb, hang, crawl, they don’t spend all their time in the trees!)
- Practice self-love (Sloths don’t care what other people- or sloths- think of them. They pay attention to their bodies, and take care of themselves via proper feeding, socialization, exercise, etc)
- Contribute to the community in which we live (Sloths are a crucial factor of tropical rain forest ecosystems)
- Ask for help when needed (Deforestation and urbanization are main causes of sloth displacement. Thankfully organizations like The Sloth Institute Costa Rica, WWF, Sloth Sanctuary Costa Rica, and the Toucan Rescue Ranch are dedicated to preserving the sloth’s standard of living)
- Appreciate the world around us (Most animals have 7 vertebrae in their necks– Three-toed sloth’s have NINE neck vertebrae which allows them to turn their head 270 degrees!)