I’m a huge animal lover and always have been. When I was recently in Costa Rica and saw that hanging out with sloths was an option, I instantly booked the trip. They are one of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen and I had only been able to admire them from shows on Animal Planet. To make it better, they always look like they’re smiling!
I started my morning with a 45-minute bus ride from Limón, Costa Rica to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. The sanctuary is run by three generations of a family, which I loved. The founders are a husband and wife who originally purchased this property on the Estrella River to offer birding tours. The area was officially declared a privately-owned biological reserve by the Costa Rican government in 1975.
A 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Limón in 1991 and forced the couple to end their birding tours due to the river changing courses. Instead, they built a hotel on their property. The couple was known for being animal lovers and caring for random animals that were injured around the area. A small sloth was brought to them in 1992 by neighbor girls, but the couple was confused on how to care for sloths, as they hadn’t seen one up close before.
They ended up spending time observing what sloths ate, how they interacted with other animals, and other traits about them. They also were able to communicate with a friend in the United States who could send them everything she could find in the New York City Library. They became experts at caring for sloths, and in 1997 their facility was officially authorized as a rescue center. People will now bring sloths here from different countries to heal.
If you know anything about this sanctuary, it’s probably that Buttercup, the most famous sloth in the world, calls this her home. She’s been featured on numerous TV shows, including Animal Planet, and in many magazine articles. She was the original sloth that was found several decades ago and is still thriving. She now has her own area away from the other sloths where she relaxes in a basket, eats, and sleeps. I got to see her during her lunch time, where she carefully chewed on several leaves.
There are many different areas in the sanctuary, and what area a sloth goes to depends on their health status. There are some sloths that will be there for the rest of their lives. They may be missing eyes or limbs and going back into the jungle will make it hard for them to survive.
Other sloths might come to the sanctuary in critical condition and need immediate surgery. They actually have a small surgery room where they can operate on these sloths. After that, they’re put in a quieter part of the facility where they can rest and heal without any distractions.
There was a nursery section for the baby sloths who came in. Some were only a few days old, while others were six or seven months old. Many sloths come to the sanctuary because humans thought they’d be cute to have as pets, only to realize that wasn’t going to work out. Unfortunately, that makes it really hard for sloths, especially young ones. They need their mothers when they’re young for feeding and learning how to act. Taking them away from other sloths only confuses them and they have no idea how to act.
When the staff fed the baby sloths, they noted the importance of using stuffed animals. Sloths are used to clinging to their mothers when they nurse, so this was trying to simulate that. The staff member would put the stuffed animal in the cage so the baby would hold on and then bring them over to be bottle-fed. I was really impressed with the attention to detail the facility had when it came to tasks like this.
If you’re in Costa Rica, you need to stop at the Sloth Sanctuary. I loved the fact that this wasn’t a zoo-type experience where humans are just staring at the animals, but that the goal is to rehab all the animals eventually. I’m glad I made this part of my Panama Canal cruise because it was definitely one of the best parts!
What’s your favorite animal that you’d love to see in person?
This post was sponsored by Princess Cruises, but all opinions are my own.
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