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Sloth Speedways: Race to Freedom

Three fingered sloth mom & baby crossing via Sloth Speedway

By Seda Sejud, Chief Sloth Ambassador, The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

At The Sloth Institute, we are excited to begin progress, slow as it may seem (but how appropriate!) towards the 3rd tenet of our mission statement: CONSERVATION.  As we help negate human encroachment issues that impact sloths’ welfare and habitats.

We all witness the expansion of development projects everywhere. Our world is getting more crowded and many of us are seeking less developed places to escape to and live. The downside of this is that in so many places, like Costa Rica, there is a large negative impact on wildlife created by human encroachment. A single tree removed can create a life-threatening situation for a sloth and can prevent them from getting to much needed food or shelter.  Unable to reach the next tree, sloths are forced to come down to the ground, where they are most exposed to danger, to travel across. Once on the ground, sloth’s encounter dogs, snakes, ocelots, and cars, all a certain threat to the safety and livelihood of the individual. While monkeys can easily jump to another tree, a sloth has no choice but to go to the ground to travel where gaps in the trees are present.

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The Sloth Freedom Project®

Female three-fingered sloth

Female three-fingered sloth

By Sam Trull, Co-Founder and Sloth Director at The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

Definition of Freedom—”the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

One of the main tenants—of The Sloth Institute is to improve the welfare of sloths. Providing proper enrichment and wild foods are a great way to improve the lives of captive sloths on their journey through rehabilitation. But ultimately, there is no greater way to enhance a sloth’s welfare (or really any creature’s welfare) than by giving them their freedom. As humans, we are sometimes so arrogant to assume that other creatures aren’t smart enough or aware enough to have desires beyond being well fed and safe but in reality the ability to make your own decisions creates feelings of relief that pass species boundaries. From a scientific perspective, the assets of freedom can be explained by detailing the benefits of a life in their natural environment. For example, with sloths it is stressful to not live in a habitat where they can climb high and find adequate hiding locations. This behavioral desire can be explained by a need to avoid predators and find shelter in a storm, but what if it also just ‘feels right’? What if they have an ‘unexplainable’ urge to make decisions for themselves and there’s no scientific proof to make it valid? What is curiosity and why do so many creatures have this drive to explore? Sloths are curious and enjoy exploration and only freedom in a natural jungle environment can satisfy those needs.

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The Sloth Institute – March 2017

2-toed sloth in a treeBy Sam Trull, Sloth Director and Co-Founder of The Sloth Institute

After living in Costa Rica and working for The Sloth Institute for over a year and a half now there is nowhere else I would like to be. Even after living in a tent, braving the weather, the long hours and lack of sleep for this long I do not want to go back home just yet!

I graduated with my zoology degree in 2015 and was thankfully accepted to become a volunteer research technician with The Sloth Institute (TSI). I went into the job without any prior knowledge about sloths, but now I have completely fallen in love with them!! Throughout my time with TSI there have been many highs and lows, that unfortunately just comes hand in hand when working with animals. One of my most recent highs was when we successfully reunited a baby three fingered sloth back with its mother. After a local guide contacted us about the sloth we rushed over to help and after we made sure the baby was in no immediate danger we waited. We moved as far back from the baby as we could and were completely silent. The baby started to cry for its mother and after some time the mother appeared high up and started to move towards her baby. She climbed down the tree until finally she reached her baby and they were reunited. Moments like these are the main reasons why I am still out here in Costa Rica!!
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Baby Sloth and Mom re-unite, a happy ending and beginning!

Mom sloth looking out for her baby

Mom sloth looking out for her baby

By Sam Trull, Sloth Director and Co-Founder of The Sloth Institute

Whenever one year ends and another one begins we tend to reflect upon the past year’s achievements and make goals for the future. However, rather than go through a laundry list of our triumphs and failures from 2016, I would like to focus on the present and share a simple story. A few weeks ago we received a phone call from a nearby hotel, a mom and baby sloth had fallen and the mom shot back up the tree leaving her tiny baby behind! I asked them to please leave the baby where it was and stay with it to keep it safe until we arrived. Minutes later at the scene of the fall, we witnessed a TINY baby three-fingered sloth about half-way up a tree dangling from a thin branch. It would every once in a while utter a very soft and pitiful cry, but mom was nowhere in sight. At this point I asked to borrow a ladder and had it set up in the tree just in case we needed to grab the baby and then I asked everyone to please leave. This tree was already adjacent to a busy road and with all of the earlier commotion; if we were going to have any chance of reuniting mom and the baby sloth we needed there to be no audience.
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Sloth Lover Tips on Being a Responsible Sloth Tourist

Never pay to touch, feed or take a phot with a sloth

Never pay to touch, feed or take a photo with a sloth

By Sam Trull, Co-Founder/Sloth Director at The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

It’s that time of the year when we experience the height of tourist season who come from all over the world visit Costa Rica for it’s amazing scenery (beaches, volcanoes, cloud forests) and for it’s amazing wildlife. The variety of gorgeous mammal species are usually a highlight for anyone’s to do list; but both species of Costa Rican sloths are almost always at the very top and many times people will plan their trip around the opportunity to see one of earth’s most fascinating creatures up close. We often get questions on the best way to see sloths while in Costa Rica. Besides taking a guided tour through a National park or visiting a responsible animal rescue center, we also know that people will come across sloths (and other wildlife) spontaneously. This is often the most exciting way to see a wild animal but there are a few things you need to remember to keep your vacation responsible and guilt free. Here are 7 tips on how to be a responsible sloth tourist.

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The Sloth Institute’s WISH Program

Wild Sloth Health Lab exteriorBy Sam Trull

A question I get asked often is “Are sloths endangered?”. While the sloths of Costa Rica may not be categorized as endangered but they are still very much IN danger. Every day critical habitat is destroyed and sloths are injured by human encroachment. They can’t run across roads, jump through gaps in the forest or fend off dogs. In addition, underlying diseases and abilities to adjust to an ever changing world go un-detected without targeted research initiatives. There are active steps we can take towards creating a safer, healthier and happier future for wild sloths in Costa Rica.  But first we need to learn, what makes a healthy sloth?  What factors affect the health of individual sloths and sloth populations? In order to truly tackle these questions, through the generous donation of Dave Houck of Tulemar and our GoFundMe donors, we recently completed the build of Monster’s WiSH (Wild Sloth Health) lab.

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Working with Sloths, not a “Relaxed” Gig!

Tom gathering branchesBy Tom Lawrence

I have been working, well full time volunteering, for The Sloth Institute (TSI) for nearly two years and what an experience it has been so far. It is a job that requires a lot of time, devotion and patience but the highs it can give you are most definitely worth it. In the rescue/rehabilitation/release business there are going to be successes, which are fantastic, but the failures and sometimes successive failures and dealing with them are really what can shape the experience.

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The Value of a Tree 

Milena & babyBy Sam Trull, Co-Founder/Sloth Director; The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI)

When I was an elementary school child, I used to plant acorns. One by one I would dig out little tiny holes in the ground, drop in the acorn, cover them up and keep them watered. I would check on them every day. When they first started sprouting I was SO proud. As they continued to get a little bigger I kept an obsessive watch. I would play near them every afternoon just to be with them. In fact, I remember taking my little tiny toy cars (no gender stereotypes here!) outside and I would drive them around the small saplings as if they were giant redwoods. I knew those skinny little green beings would grow up to be big tall trees one day. I remember thinking that I would need to replant them somewhere with more space once they were big enough…I used to daydream about the spots were they would eventually live. They deserved lots of room for their leaves, roots and eventually…their own little acorns. I visualized the birds that would perch on their branches, the woodpeckers that would pound on their trunks. Even at that very young age I understood the value of a tree.
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The Sloth Institute Release Project: Ellen & Kermie

Kermit sleeping in vines

Kermie sleeping in vines

By Sam Trull, TSI Co-Founder/Sloth Director

The past few months have been a whirlwind—so many exciting new project ideas and so many projects that have been underway for a long time…finally showing the fruits of our labor! I am very excited to report that Ellen and Kermie’s release is underway! (For those of you who haven’t read about Ellen and Kermie, they are a pair of 2-toed sloths that were brought to KSTR within days of each other, at the time they were barely a week old, and had been orphaned by their mothers. I hand-raised the pair and last September, they were brought to the soft release cage).

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All About #slothlove—The TSI story 

2 rescued baby slothsAbout The Sloth Institute, Costa Rica

By Seda Sejud, Chief Sloth Ambassador at TSI

You may have seen the Sloth Mobile driving around town, or you may have seen some young people walking in Manuel Antonio wearing the shirts you see pictured here and wondered, who are these people and where did they come from? What is hashtag slothlove? What is a sloth mobile? And who/what is The Sloth Institute Costa Rica and where did they come from?

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