Sloths are adorable, as anyone knows who watched the 2016 film Zootopia. They are also slow moving, with sluggish metabolisms and plodding movements. No wonder they spend much of their life seemingly motionless and upside-down.
So it is poetically appropriate that the world’s first sloth sanctuary developed VERY slowly, as befitting the creatures for which it was created.
The sloth story began in 1992 with some schoolgirls living near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. They had found a three-fingered sloth, three months old, on the road one day. The mother had been killed by a car and the orphan female was destined to die as well, since baby sloths are dependent on their mothers for 12 months, and stay with them for years.
The girls brought the baby, then weighing about 500 grams, to the one person they hoped could take care of it. Judy Avey-Arroyo was an American married to a Costa Rican; they ran a small tourism business for bird watchers and had rescued dogs and birds. Locals recognized them as animal lovers. What the girls didn’t know — and neither did Judy — was that knowledge about sloths was almost non-existent back then.
Over the next 25 years, Avey-Arroyo was to become a self-taught expert on sloths, and today the Sloth Sanctuary (about 35 minutes south of Limon on the Caribbean coast) is the largest facility of its kind in the world, with “about” 180 current residents. Over this quarter century, information about the lives and habits of sloths has increased dramatically and so has their public profile . . . and that of the sanctuary contributing to their enhanced visibility.
For example, before the 1990s, sloths were referred to as “two-toed” (Choloepus)or “three-toed” (: Bradypus variegatus). Today it is understood that all known species of sloth are three-toed. However, the Choloepus has two “fingers” on each fore-extremity, while the Bradypus has three “fingers” on each fore-extremity. The Choloepus is the larger of the two, up to 20 pounds, nocturnal, no tail but four canine teeth for its varied plant diet. Bradypus weighs up to 10 pounds, generally diurnal, with short…