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Save the Sloths and You Save Everything Else with Rebecca Cliffe (Episode #179)

Dr. Rebecca Cliffe is the founder of one of the world’s largest organizations for the conservation of the endearing, always-smiling sloth. Sloths aren’t just the latest trendy, adorable animal: Dr. Cliffe is here to inform us that they are worth every moment of constant attention and adoration, and to help us understand how we can assist this remarkable wildlife partner.



About Our Guest:

In a bustling world where speed often dictates success and efficiency reigns supreme, there exists a realm where life moves at a different pace; a realm inhabited by creatures so unique and intriguing that they captivate the imaginations of all who encounter them. This is the world of sloths. Dr. Rebecca Cliffe is a beacon of knowledge and passion in the field of sloth conservation, and together we will delve into the mysteries of these incredible mammals, and uncover the hidden gems that can resonate with our own lives and neighborhoods.

Dr. Cliffe, a British zoologist, stands as a leading expert on sloth biology and ecology, with a particular focus on the conservation of urban sloths. Now that these little guys are becoming common in treetops of cities, towns and neighborhoods across Central and South America, they will need some serious assistance to survive and thrive. 

At the heart of this journey lies The Sloth Conservation Foundation, founded by Dr. Rebecca Cliffe in 2017. This organization stands as a beacon of hope for these creatures, offering a multifaceted approach that extends far beyond traditional boundaries. Through education, infrastructure development, research, training, and conflict mitigation projects, the Foundation has become a pivotal force in safeguarding sloth populations, particularly in urban environments.

Costa Rica serves as the backdrop for many of the Sloth Conservation Foundation’s endeavors, where collaboration between conservation and photography has flourished. It is here that Dr. Cliffe and her team have orchestrated initiatives aimed at preserving sloth habitats, educating communities, and mitigating the threats posed by urbanization. As a result of their efforts, Costa Rica remains one of the few places in the world where sloths are not endangered—a testament to the impact of dedicated conservation work.

One of the Foundation’s most remarkable achievements lies in its outreach efforts, which have touched the lives of over 30,000 schoolchildren. By instilling a sense of stewardship and appreciation for the sloth at a young age, these initiatives pave the way for a future where coexistence between humans and wildlife is not only possible, but thriving.

The Sloth Conservation Foundation’s impact extends beyond education, with tangible interventions designed to mitigate the dangers faced by sloths in urban environments. The installation of 300 sloth bridges to facilitate safe passage across busy roadways and other dangerous areas in Costa Rica stands as a testament to the innovative approaches employed by Dr. Cliffe and her team. Additionally, efforts to address the threat posed by domestic dogs, another major danger to urban sloths, have resulted in over 15,000 animals receiving veterinary care and support.

As we journey deeper into the world of the sloth, we uncover a tapestry of traits and behaviors that offer striking parallels to our own lives. From their leisurely lifestyles to their surprising social dynamics, sloths present a mirror through which we can reflect on our own existence. In a world that often prioritizes speed and efficiency, sloths serve as a gentle reminder of the beauty found in taking things slow and embracing the present moment.

Moreover, the story of sloth conservation serves as a powerful example of what can be achieved when passion, dedication, and innovation converge. Dr. Rebecca Cliffe’s unwavering commitment to these enigmatic creatures serves as an inspiration to us all, prompting us to reflect on our own unique contributions to the world around us.

Dr. Cliffe did not start on this path of finding her passion as you might imagine. She was an average city girl from Manchester, England, who took an internship on a lark, and then stumbled onto the thing she was made to contribute to our shared future. Her story may inspire you or others in your life—especially teens—to embrace a different mindset for discovering your own passion.

After hearing this interview, you will be a savvier traveler and a deputized vigilant steward of our planet, and I’m guessing you will also begin to notice and embrace the diversity of life that surrounds your home in a completely new way. Who knows? Perhaps you too can make a difference in your own neighborhood, just as Dr. Rebecca Cliffe has done for the sloths.

References Mentioned:


  • 00:00 – Intro & Welcome
  • 03:58 – Slow & Steady Wins the Race
  • 06:15 – The Issues Sloths Face
  • 09:05 – Dr. Cliffe’s Finds Her True Calling
  • 14:45 – Celebrate the Wins No Matter What
  • 18:17 – Break
  • 20:35 – The Sloth Conservation Foundation’s Mission
  • 23:45 – Travel Savvy Tips For Ethical Animal Treatment
  • 31:25 – Creating a Sloth-Friendly Urban Environment
  • 38:27 – The Need for Greater Sloth Research
  • 45:25 – The Importance of Sloths in Their Ecosystems
  • 48:44 – Future Goals for The Sloth Conservation Foundation
  • 51:10 – How to Support the Sloths
  • 56:35 – Closing

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