1. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica is the most important sloth sanctuary in the world, and it is pretty damn hard to get to.
Located four hours from the nearest airport, you have to drive through a jungle on a crazy two-lane road to get there. As someone who doesn’t drive much, let alone in a different country, it was a legit challenge. There was almost, for real, a mudslide! It was scary, but totally worth it because sloths.
2. The sanctuary currently hosts over 350 sloths (!!!!).
It’s open six days a week for tours and you can even stay overnight. We spent four nights there.
3. Right when you get into the sanctuary, there’s a huge statue of an actual life-size prehistoric sloth.
This is what sloths used to look like. They were monsters, but not really. They were probably pretty gentle and humans killed them off because we are assholes.
4. The sloth sanctuary has the best room names ever because they’re named after sloths and any room named after a sloth is a pretty cool room, especially if the sloth’s name is Johnny Depp.
I got to stay in this bad boy, and by bad boy, I mean room.
5. Anyway, the first thing you learn at the sanctuary is that scientists know basically nothing about sloths. Sloths have never really been studied until very very recently. I’m talking the last 10 years recently.
One of the missions of the sloth sanctuary is to bring the sloths out of the millions of years of darkness they’ve been in. It’s all so dark and cryptic.
6. This woman, Judy, runs the sanctuary along with her family. She is basically the most important sloth person in the world. She has done more for sloths than anyone else. She is a legend.
Over the past 20 years, Judy has been taking sloths into her sanctuary. She has never rejected a sloth. The sanctuary is completely independently funded through donations and tours.
7. This is Becky. Becky is a Ph.D. student and biologist. She is basically the most important sloth scientist in the world.
Becky has been living at the sanctuary for the past four years, and her job is literally to study sloths all day. In the past four years, she’s made more discoveries about sloths than the entire scientific community ever has. Like Judy, she’s also a badass. Becky spends her days alone in the jungle tracking sloths and putting little backpacks on them. More on that later.
NOW ON TO THE SLOTHS THEMSELVES…
8. First off, sloths have tiny humanlike ears.
Mind-blowing. Earth-shattering. Life-changing. WHO KNEW?
9. All sloths also have these strange fur designs on their back.
The diversity is very real. You don’t see this on TV. Take that, Animal Planet. Ouch.
10. All baby sloths brought to the sanctuary have to exercise every day on a jungle gym. In order to teach the smallest babies to climb, their “trainer” starts with really small motions. It’s like sloth personal training.
11. The sloth personal trainer has quite possibly one of the best dream jobs. She literally always has baby sloths hanging off of her.
I mean, what is your life?
12. So yeah, all baby sloths have to exercise and they are FAST.
Sloth babies are especially ~frisky~. They MOVE. Don’t be fooled. If you look away, the sloth could be on the ground or in your hair or crawling up your arm. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool.
13. Sloths in the wild are solitary animals. In captivity, they tend to stick together.
Sloths are never chilling with other sloths in the wild, but for some reason in the sanctuary, they stick together.
14. And sometimes they fight.
And by fight, I mean sloth fighting. This basically means they open their mouths and try to bite each other. Even this was kind of tame.
15. Sloths are the most amazing and incredible eaters. The best.
Upside down and under the covers. I mean…the life.
16. This is what sloth poop looks like. It’s pretty damn cute, if we’re talking poop.
17. Sleeping sloths are the best kind of sloths.
Because that smile.
19. Sloths absolutely love hibiscus plants. It’s their favorite treat.
Sloths love these flowers, which grow naturally all over Costa Rica. The beauty is truly overpowering and REAL.
20. Sloths love to lick human hands.
For unknown reasons. Best guess is because they like the salt on our hands. Sloth tongues are pretty cool too. It’s not freaky like a cat tongue, it’s more like a normal, human tongue. It’s chill.
21. Even sloths pick their noses.
22. There are lots of one-eyed pirate sloths.
Eye injuries are a common injury the sanctuary sees when new sloths are brought in. When people are cutting down or trimming trees, they can’t really see the sloths because they camouflage so well.
23. Up until fairly recently, people in Costa Rica thought of sloths as vermin and pests.
As the popularity in sloths has risen, they’ve realized how important the animals are. Pretty cool.
24. The sloth nursery is the most special of special places.
The nursery is where all the little baby sloths live. Baby sloths, as you may know, are perfect.
25. Sloths have really tiny pupils.
See that dot in the middle of this sloth’s eye. That’s it’s pupil.
26. This sloth has dilated pupils.
It may or may not be blind. It’s really hard to tell if a sloth is blind or not.
27. Some sloths look like actual space aliens.
Kind of terrifying?
28. There are two species of sloths: The two-toed and the three-toed. The two species of sloths are separated at the sanctuary, except when they are babies.
Like, you wouldn’t see the two- and three-toed sloths together as adults. When they’re babies, you’ll find them separated in their buckets by a blanket.
29. This is what happens when they interact.
30. This is what a full-time sloth vet looks like.
She works at the sanctuary. Another cool thing about sloths is that they transport the babies on stuffed animals.
31. Flies drink sloth tears.
Nature, man. Nature.
32. This is what a sloth with a tiny backpack looks like.
Becky (the scientist from above) runs the sloth backpack project. She puts a little backpack on wild sloths and then releases them back into the wild. The backpack collects data letting her know where the sloths have been. Sloths are nearly impossible to track on their own because they blend into everything so well.
33. The secret hardest part of releasing a sloth back into the wild is that they will GRAB ONTO EVERYTHING.
When this sloth named Burrito was being released back into the wild he would just grab for anything. He got caught on a bridge and trees and bushes and everything.
34. We know very, very, very, little about the two-toed sloths. Basically nothing.
Like I said before, scientists haven’t ever really studied sloths. The sloths they study at the sanctuary, so far, have only been the three-toed. That’s because they’re easier to wrangle and get the little backpack on.
35. All baby sloths at the sanctuary are paired with a stuffed animal.
The most amazing part of all of this is that the sloths become attached to their stuffed animal. It’s kind of sad but also pretty damn cool.
36. There’s even a book shelf at the sanctuary dedicated to stuffed animal storage.
37. Sloths are sometimes named after the stuffed animals they become most attached to. Like this guy’s name is Kermit because he won’t leave his Kermit stuffed animal.
38. One of the most commonly surreal sights at the sanctuary are literal buckets of baby sloths.
You read that correctly, BUCKETS of baby sloths. The baby sloths are transported in the buckets when they are being fed or brought out for exercise.
39. Sloths experience food comas.
Basically you + me.
40. Sloths get milk mustaches.
Also basically you + me.
41. The most adorable part of sloth feeding is when the little tiny babies grab onto the little feeder thing.
I mean…that tiny little hand.
42. Most sloths at that sanctuary live in these incubators from World War II.
They don’t even work properly, they’re just the best containers they have for them.
43. Sloth naps are the best naps.
The babies would fall asleep pretty quickly after eating and it was perfect.
44. Painfully cute.
45. Again, sloths aren’t lazy! If you open their cage, they will crawl out and onto you!
This would happen all the time. They’re fast!
46. Every single sloth at the sanctuary has a name and they are the best names.
47. For example, this sloth is named Oprah after the one and only Winfrey.
There’s also a sloth named Harpo after Harpo Productions. So empowering.
48. Double-fisting vegetables is a common sight at the sanctuary.
That’s what’s up.
49. Sloths like to face-plant into their food.
I have to say it again, feeding time for the baby sloths was always the best part of the day. No contest.
50. Like this guy tipped his food into his mouth to make it easier to eat.
51. This girl got food all over her face.
52. And this one literally laughed itself to sleep after its meal. This may be my favorite picture of all time.
53. Sloths give a mean side-eye.
54. They can also have a pretty nasty case of resting bitch face.
55. If you see a sloth mom snuggling her sloth baby you will probably shriek and die.
I learned this the hard way. I died.
56. Sloths are really, really strong.
This sloth, named Jemima, was easily supported on one finger. Sloths have to be strong enough to climb around in trees all day. They’re ripped.
57. When sloths hang on poles, they often look like strippers.
58. Last but certainly not ~least~, I learned that you can never get sick of looking at and watching sloths…
59. …which is like, duh…
60. …they’re perfect.
61. Also they don’t really smell like anything and their fur feels coarse.
Because I know everyone was wondering that too.