This Sloth School Helps Babies Live in the Wild

Teaching sloth cubs the skills they need.

This Sloth School Helps Babies Live in the Wild | Teaching sloth cubs the skills they need.

Sloths are adorable slow-moving creatures that people love to love. In fact, they are some of the cutest animals in the La Ceiba rainforest in Costa Rica and other forests in Central and South.

Sloths spend most of their time sluggishly moving through the tree canopy and munching on leaves and twigs according to the World Wildlife Fund. There are now only 1,500 sloths – both two-toed and three-toed – left in the wild. But with loss of habitat, and the encroachment of humans, life can be hard on the littlest ones. That’s why a sloth orphanage is helping these babies learn to live in the wild.

The sanctuary and rehabilitation center is located deep in the forest, according to euronews,  and works to teach orphaned cubs the skills they need to survive.

“How do you teach a sloth to be a sloth? That’s the real question,” Encar García, the founder of the Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC) in Costa Rica told euronews; “and that's why we invented a way these baby orphans can be released back into the forest where they belong.”

Slothing 101
When an orphaned cub is brought to the facility, the animal is introduced to the new environment. “We’ve invented a whole adaptation system for our sloths,” said García. “Firstly, we put it with other babies of the same age and we take it through a process that we call ‘high school’, where it goes outside, starts climbing trees and uses our playground…little by little, it learns to be a sloth.

The educational process allows the infant sloths to reacclimate to their natural habitats. The babies have to be taught how to climb trees, what nutritional foods to eat and where these foods are located so that when they are released, they can find food on their own.

Before the sloths are released into the wild in the Cahuita National Park they are microchipped and their nails are painted bright colors so that the JRC staff can track them. “It’s a great feeling to see that all of the work that has been done by our entire team over three years has resulted in freedom for these wonderful animals, ” García said.

The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica
The Sloth Sanctuary was founded by Judy Avey-Arroyo and Luis Arroyo who purchased the 320-acre  property  to offer birding tours. According to the organization’s website, the land was formerly used for banana plantations. But a 7.7 magnitude earthquake in 1991 changed the nearby rivers course and that put an end to birding tours. The Arroyos built a small hotel instead.

But their lives would take a new trajectory. In 1992, three girls who lived nearby brought the couple a baby sloth (Buttercup) whose mother had been hit by a car. Even though they had no idea how to take care of the cub, they raised it by observing wild sloths on the property. Buttercup was the first of many.

The center was officially recognized as a rescue center in 1997. The mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, research, and release sloths back to the wild so they can live out their lives – slowly – in the rainforest.

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