Known for their leisurely lifestyle, sloths spend most of their time hanging out in the rainforest canopy. In truth, sloths are active 10-14 hours a day (or night depending on the species!). About once a week, they climb down from the trees to defecate and urinate. This is when they are most vulnerable to ocelots, jaguars, birds of prey, and feral dogs. In the area near Manuel Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most popular eco-tourism destinations, roads and development have fragmented the forests, increasing the threats to the very wildlife people come to see.
The Zoo partners with The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI) to study as well as rescue, rehabilitate and release sloths in the Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica. Established in 2014, TSI has successfully released both Hoffman’s Two-toed (Choloepus hoffmanni) and Brown-throated Three-toed Sloths (Bradypus variegates) that had been orphaned and hand-raised. Sloths face an ever-increasing threat from human encroachment. They are often struck by cars when crossing roads that bisect the forest, attacked by feral dogs, electrocuted by un-insulated electrical wires, or lose the trees they live in and eat due to deforestation.
Tracking sloths (image by Maura Messerly)
The ecology of sloths still holds many mysteries. TSI fits each released sloth with a tracking collar and also places these collars on wild sloths. This allows the researchers to monitor and collect data on both the released and wild sloths with the goal of contributing more detailed knowledge to the scientific community in order to help preserve these unusual species.
Young sloth that is being rehabilitated for release (image by Maura Messerly)
Have you ever dreamed of meeting a sloth up close and personal? Book a Moe’mentous Sloth Encounter behind-the-scenes tour! Proceeds from your experience will fund conservation work in the field and help protect sloths in the wild.