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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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With all of that said, the wild isn’t always a friendly place and there are certainly dangers that must be faced each day. But like with us, surmounting those challenges and conquering your fears leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction. Without facing challenges, even life threatening ones, you get bored. Sloths have a bad reputation of being lazy and stupid. Neither of those things are true, they are efficient and deliberate and they can get bored. It is our philosophy with the Sloth Freedom Project® to encourage the best lives possible for each sloth that enters our program and we aim to give them the lives they deserve by providing them their freedom. Now of course it isn’t as simple as just putting them in a tree and saying, “good luck”! Each individual is different and the release process is time consuming and expensive and we are there to help them every step of the way.

Male three-fingered sloth

Male three-fingered sloth

As Colin Powell once said, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”. Our dream is to offer freedom to as many able-bodied sloths as possible, and the TSI team certainly works hard (and sweats a lot!). We’ve already seen this dream realized for sloths like Ellen, Kermie and Monster and our determination only grows stronger as we continue to chisel away at that giant mountain of hope for other sloths…waiting for their chance to be free.

About The Sloth Institute Costa Rica:

The mission of The Sloth Institute Costa Rica is to protect and enhance the welfare and conservation of sloths. We do this with RESEARCH of captive, wild and recently released sloths including collaborations with conservationists and scientists around the world. EDUCATION to generate and disseminate responsible information about sloths. CONSERVATION programs that negate human encroachment issues impacting sloth welfare and habitat.

TSI’s headquarters are located in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. For further information or to donate to this project, email info@theslothinstitutecostarica.org or visit tsi.charity.org. You can also follow us on our Facebook page @theslothinstitute.

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