Before I went to Costa Rica, I enjoyed in so many documentary shows about sloths and have been excited that I might see them live in this beautiful country of Central America. Unfortunately, in spite of all hopes and high expectations that sloths will be seen somewhere around the corner, I managed to see none while I was there. It was a big disappointment but also the motivation to talk to the locals about the sloths and their precious meaning in the wildlife and complete ecosystem.

Personally, when I imagine sloths, I can see only famous Sid the Sloth, legendary fictional and funny hero from animated movie ICE AGE. The little guy was simply irresistible with all of its pretty much complex personality. Sid was one of my favourite role since it managed to challenge almost any danger, without even being really bothered about it. This animal or rather character has shown us that optimism and positive thoughts can get us out from many risky situations and bring us on the right road again. Is Sid actually the real portray of our sloths ? What do we know so far about those adorable mammals that make Costa Rica even more attractive ?

The nature had all its reasons to create sloths as the slowest mammals on the Earth due the fact that they need to conserve their energy. This further means that moderate sloth is moving about 40 meters, if ever, in a single day. Those furry animals found home in tall vegetations and high trees colonies because walking on the ground could be very difficult for their big and long claws. The zoologists can recognise two type of sloths: the two toed and the three toed sloths, depending how many of toes they do have in front limbs.

The modern sloths are size of a medium dog but back in the past, creature known as Megatherium, something like prehistoric sloth, had been a size of an Asian elephant and gone for more than 10,000 years. Nowadays, the sloths are almost invisible in darkness of the rain forests. Only if we have luck, we can locate them….because they simply do not make unnecessary movements. Due to the camouflage they developed, they are almost like trees themselves. It is interesting that argue that live on sloths fur are those what provide the special camouflage coat for them. That is so called symbiosis because sloths give to algae safety from water and the algae protect the sloths from unfriendly eyes. One perfect relationship that proves that animals always know what is the best for them, without people being included. Not to mention, that there are also fungi that live on sloth fur and those fungi may help medicine against many aggressive parasites, bacteria and even cancer.

Those mammals are usually hanging upside down, 90% of its existence, so it doesn’t surprise that they see life completely from another perspective. The science has investigate the story behind this and the conclusion is :”that this is made possible because their organs are attached to their rib cage, which means they don’t weigh down on the lungs. This means that, unlike us, a sloth can hang upside down with no effect on its breathing.” Their diet is mostly oriented on green stuff but there are sloths that feed on small insects and birds, but also very rare. We shouldn’t forget that their digestion take some time, sometimes even 30 days are needed for processing one single leaf. When they hang down, they also monitor the surrounding, searching for potential danger, especially if they do have offspring. The fantastic thing is that the sloths can obtain 360° view of the world around them, which put their defence tools on the high level. Beside that, sloths are good swimmers and can hold on their breath, under water, for even 40 minutes.

I find them simply adorable, when they smile. I know they do not have a real smile but that facial expression they do have is simply priceless. They are curious animals that do not have real fear from humans and that is why we see so many abuse of sloth in touristic places. For cup of dollars, in some lands of South or Central America you can hold on sloth and make photos with them. Costa Rica made a great decision to fight against such misuse of poor sloths for touristic pleasures and I believe that is the only way to go. The sloths are not there to entertain us and our egoism but to fully live their sleepy life, that could be sometimes even up to 10 hours. In captivity, those animals sleep up to 20 hours. The sloths have the rod monochromacy which made them lack cone cells in their eyes and issuing problems with blindness in daily light. However, their strength is in good smell sensors and spatial memory. Not only that, they know that they need warmth to keep tiny microbes in their stomach enough fit to help them with digestion. If there is a cold, those good working germs could die and also the sloths could die, due to the unsolved digestion case. But in the case that they fall out of trees, which could happen at least once, they are so perfectly designed to survive. That sloth skeleton is simply so created to deal with the things that other living beings wouldn’t even think about to be able to survive.

Those adorable critters go to the ground when they need to relieve themselves. This basically mean that sloths need to go to the bathroom only once a week. At that moment, they can poop up to a third of their body weight at once, but, at least, it is only or mostly once in a seven days, when they go on the ground and could be more exposed to the predators. The perfect metabolism or the slow digestion, who knows ?

At the end, they are unique and authentic, sharing so many lessons we need to adopt in our busy and stressful life. The sloths have survived so many years being just the way they are but also polishing their perfection in the special area. They arent experts for all and that is what humans need to learn, that each and single person has different capability and doesn’t need to know all and be perfect in everything. Sometimes the imperfection is the only perfection we really need in our life, to put focus on the goals and let everything else running smooth, beside us.

The sloths are one of my favourite mammals because they are enough brave to be just the way they are and that is the one reason more we all need to work on their conservation, before is not too late.


  1. Sarah’s inspiring and delightful article reminded me of The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (established in 2014); a non-profit organisation adjacent to The Manuel Antonio National Park. It focuses on rescuing the sloths, rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the natural environments.

    According to government and scientific surveys, the majority of unnatural deaths of sloths in Costa Rica are due to contact with electricity power lines (i.e. the sloths try to climb them) and illegal poaching (i.e. illicit international exotic pet trade); despite being difficult to domesticate, as they require highly-specialised environments in which to survive.

    There are other sloth rescue efforts in Costa Rica, but some have bad reputations (e.g. The Aviaros Sloth Sanctuary: two former veterinarians accused the facility staff of mistreating the rescued sloths in their care, in 2016).

    As Sarah mentions, sloths are an exemplar of symbiotic life on Earth for humans to learn from and emulate…


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !