Though the sloth’s approach to life is unconventional, perhaps we could all benefit from their secret to survival: taking life slooooooowww. This strategy has kept this family of herbivores around for almost 70 million years, so no matter how much you may doubt that slow and steady wins the race, the sloth proves beyond a shadow of a doubt it can really prove to be true!
However their speed (or lack thereof) is not always a blessing—especially when they are thrust from their treetop homes to the unfamiliar territory of human cities. As humans have encroached on their native habitat and partitioned up rainforests sloths are coming into increased contact with the dangers of the fast life.
In Costa Rica, a collaboration between conservation and photography is having a profoundly positive impact on those growing dangers, helping the country remain one of the few places in the world where sloths are not endangered.
The Dangers of Being a Sloth
Costa Rica is home to two of six sloth species found in the Americas: Hoffman’s Two-toed sloth, and the brown-throated sloth. And, as we just mentioned, it’s one of the few places on the planet where sloths aren’t currently endangered—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in danger. Luckily for these slow-moving furry friends, conservationists are in their corner.
When you’re a slow moving arboreal mammal, life can be pretty good at half speed, but this isn’t always the case. The primary danger sloths face unfortunately comes from human causes: deforestation and urbanization 1. As human habitats expand, we take up space that is essential for the survival of native species– knocking down the tall tropical trees sloths call home, and most of the timethere is little effort put into coexisting with the species we displace. The sloths of Costa Rica are living proof that coexistence is not only possible but obtainable!
In Costa Rica, sloths living in urban environments face two main dangers: electrocution from poorly insulated power lines, and attacks from pet dogs who haven’t been properly trained. This is where the Sloth Conservation Foundation—or SloCo as it’s affectionately called—comes in.
Meeting Costa Rican Sloths’ Heroes!
Founded in 2017 by sloth researcher Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, the Sloth Conservation Foundation works to empower and engage local communities to further sloth conservation. Through numerous projects in Costa Rica that span education, infrastructure, research, training, and conflict mitigation their work has helped to create tangible improvements in the livelihood of sloth in the country and beyond. Their work has educated over 30,000 school children, installed 300 sloth bridges to cross busy roadways, and fixed over 15,000 dogs—a major danger to urban sloths.
All of this is made possible through donations from around the globe and key to the success of their fundraising efforts is the close relationship and collaboration between Dr. Cliffe and her long-time friend and wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas. Her award-winning photography has captured hearts around the world and helped ignite a widespread love for sloths worldwide. Through the power of visual storytelling Suzi has bridged the divide between science and conservation and art and photography to help make the astonishing impact of the Sloth Conservation Foundation Possible.
For more on the story of this wonderful collaboration and the remarkable work the Sloth Conservation Foundation does, check out this video from London’s Natural History Museum.
How uplifting! As always, it’s so exciting to hear about conservation success sotries and see humans living in concert with wildlife so effectively.
Supporting the Sloths Yourself!
If you’d like to support the remarkable work of the Sloth Conservation Foundation, there are many ways to get involved. You can go to their website to donate directly, or if you’re looking for a holiday gift for the animal lover in your life you can adopt a sloth! Sloth adoption helps to fund conservation solutions in Costa Rica and as a sloth adopter you get monthly updates on the sloths in the Sloth Conservation Foundation’s care. You can adopt a sloth by clicking here!
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t send you over to the Sloth Conservation Shop as well. There you can snag an annual Sloth Calendar, Rebecca and Suzi’s best selling book Sloth Book: Life in the Slow Lane, or browse sloth toys and totes. If you’re a sloth lover, or have one in your life you’ll definitely want to check it out.
Art Changes Public Perception– and the Public Gets Things Done!
The relationship between the arts and the world of science is often overlooked or even ignored. However, SloCo’s success story wouldn’t be the amazing tale it is without the photography that brought the adorable side of sloths to the world.Efforts that cross disciplines just like this can have a profound impact on so many of the problems our world is facing. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Zaria Forman’s Massive Glacier Portraits Inspire Love for Unseen Landscapes
This isn’t a photograph of the Getz Ice Shelf, its a drawing! Zaria Forman creates large-scale depictions of glaciers, and NASA’s Operation IceBridge invited her on a trip to get even closer to them. Here’s that story and the gorgeous creations that came from it!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Stay safe and take it slow!
Don’t miss out on a single article!
Enjoy unlimited access to over 500 articles & podcast that give you a positive perspective on the state of the world and show you practical ways you can help.
- Bergh, Karin. “The 7 Greatest Threats to Sloths in the Costa Rica, and What Can Be Done to Help.” Maria Nila, Maria Nila, 31 Oct. 2021, marianila.com/blogs/blog/the-7-greatest-threats-to-sloths-in-the-costa-rica-and-what-can-be-done-to-help. Accessed 16 Nov. 2023. ↩
- Natural History Museum. “Sloth Dilemma: Urban Sloths in Costa Rica | Wildlife Photographer of the Year.” YouTube, YouTube Video, 22 Oct. 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipP4StFYOt4. Accessed 29 Nov. 2023. ↩