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Rescuing Costa Rica's sleepy sloths

By Lucy Cooke, VBS.TV
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Saving sloths in Costa Rica
  • Sloths have very few natural predators
  • Costa Rica's roads and power lines threaten its sloth population
  • Aviaros del Caribe is the world's only sloth sanctuary
  • Costa Rica

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Refugio Aviarios del Caribe, Costa Rica (VBS.TV) -- Sloths are fantastically weird animals, the junkies of the jungle who seem to spend their lives either nodding off or scratching and occasionally eating a bean or two before drifting back to what looks like a blissful sleep.

I've always been a fan of sloths. They're wonderfully freaky, yet perfectly adapted to their slow arboreal lifestyle. Their nerves have even evolved to react slower so they don't flinch at loud noises, making them nature's most chilled-out animals.

They have very few natural predators and the only time they're vulnerable is when they leave the trees once a week and descend to the ground to poo. This behavior has befuddled scientists for many years. One of the theories is that their solitary lifestyle affords few chances to hook up with the opposite sex and these toilet stops are a good way to meet other sloths.

See the rest of "Sloths!" at VBS.TV

But evolution didn't prepare sloths for the power lines and roads that now crisscross Costa Rica's jungles. The babies of mama sloths who have been run over or zapped by electricity wind up at the Aviaros del Caribe sanctuary in Costa Rica. It's the world's only sloth orphanage, home to more than 100 very sleepy urchins whose lives have been saved by legendary sloth whisperer Judy Arroyo.

If you fall for these animals like I did then you can join the sanctuary's volunteer program. Trainee sloth wranglers get to feed the sloths and help exercise and potty train the babies. The sanctuary runs on donations and volunteers, so you can do your bit by helping these vulnerable creatures whose jungle home, some say, is being slowly destroyed by pesticides, sold off to U.S. real estate agencies, and sliced up by roads and power lines.