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HEAVEN FOR SLOTHS: THE TOUCAN RESCUE RANCH

COSTA RICA BABY SLOTH SANCTUARY

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If you could be ONE animal which would you be?

You know how everyone has a “spirit animal”- that animal you feel you can relate to? I recently travelled to Central America to meet mine! A sloth! I had this vision in my head of how I thought a sloth would be. Slow, sleepy, and cute! Wow are they ever misinterpreted animals. They are a lot quicker than you’d think! They sleep a lot and their diet it typically made up of leafs. They live at the top of trees and commute to the bottom to do their business or to change trees when seeking a mate. Their nails and teeth are sharp! These help protect them from dogs and large jungle cats! Their bite is so dirty it can instantly create infection so tread lightly if you ever have an encounter with a sloth.

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The Toucan Rescue Ranch is an animal sanctuary 15km from the San Jose airport. Their goal is to rescue injured or sick wildlife in Costa Rica, giving them a home until they can release them back into the wild. They have volunteers that help educate guests, keep the sanctuary running, and bring the animals back to health! What I found fascinating is that they do not allow for volunteers to come for 1 week, play with the animals and then carry on with their travels. If you want to volunteer here you have to stay a minimum of 1 month (3 months – 1 year is highly recommended)  so that they can properly train you and so that the animals are not being held by different staff each week.

COSTA RICA BABY SLOTH SANCTUARY
We like to hang out in buckets so tourists don’t accidentally touch us!

I have seen a lot of people visiting Costa Rica and heading on an excursion to “hug a sloth”. The dark truth is that a zoo or sanctuary that allows touching does not care about a sloth’s well-being, and is more concerned about giving tourists that Instagram photo. Toucan Rescue Ranch teaches guests never to touch the sloths or promote places that do. Sloths are very sensitive animals. Touching a sloth can be harmful because they are strongly olfactory animals – meaning they can become stressed by the lotions and perfumes people wear, loud noises, or by improperly handling them. As well as, if a sloth doesn’t recognize a scent, this can increase their heart rate, resulting in a really stressed animal. The amount of people touching them should be externally limited to a couple of carriers while in sanctuaries if they ever have a chance at re-integrating them back into the wild.

COSTA RICA SLOTH REHABILITATION
We’re training for the wild! It’s hard work which is why I’m so sleepy!

It’s also important never to feed the sloth’s – at a sanctuary or in the wild. They have delicate stomach’s and feeding them too much or improper food can severely harm them. The Toucan Rescue Ranch lets you watch as they are being meticulously fed but you are not allowed to feed them yourself.

COSTA RICA SLOTH BEING FED AT SANCTUARY
Don’t feed me. I’m delicate.

Always do research before you visit a sloth sanctuary. We have read reports that some places will chain up the sloth to a tree to guarantee tourists will see a sloth. Many of the sloth’s used for selfies are not rescues and are stolen from their natural habitat. Some of them are beaten or kept in horrible conditions until they are tame enough to be photographed with humans (remember? they bite and have sharp nails!). Wild sloth’s rest 56% of the day and in these tourist conditions they sometimes only get rest 2% of the day. A sloth’s life span dramatically decreases in these conditions. Thank goodness for places like The Toucan Rescue Ranch that keep the tourists on a tight chain instead 😉

The moral of the story: if you love something, don’t chain it up or force it to do something for your own self interest. Set. It. Free.

TOP 5 ARTICLE TAKEAWAYS:

  • Never touch a sloth – it could harm them
  • Never feed a sloth – it could harm them
  • Never support a place that allows sloth selfies – it harms them
  • Do support sanctuaries that rehabilitate and release sloth’s
  • Do support sanctuaries that educate about ethical sloth tourism

P.S. Why not make a donation to The Toucan Rescue Ranch in lieu of a gift for one of you animal loving friends?

COSTA RICA SLOTH SANCTUARY
No selfies please.
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