There’s a special place in our hearts for people that drop everything to help animals. Unlike humans, animals simply aren’t able to stand up and advocate for themselves.
Dogs and cats aren’t the only species that need our help. Farm animals, raccoons, and more are often out alone in the world, desperately searching for someone kind to give them a little TLC. You might not think of sloths as mammals in need of a lot of human care, but for orphaned baby sloths, the world can be a cruel place.
Luckily, Sam Trull is there to give them a little helping hand. Trull, who is also known as The Mother of Sloths, co-founded The Sloth Institute Costa Rica in 2014.
She began working with animals as a teenager before completing a Bachelors degree in Zoology and a Masters of Science in Primate Conservation. After her formal education, she traveled around the world helping animals of all kinds before settling in Costa Rica to work as the Wildlife Manager at Kids Saving The Rainforest.
During her time at Kids Saving The Rainforest, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the rainforest and its wildlife, Trull spent much of her time caring for and rehabilitating sloths.
Prior to that, Trull had generally worked with primates. She loved Spider Monkeys, in particular, which is what drew her to Costa Rica in the first place.
While the monkeys still hold a special place in her heart, she found that sloths were in dire need of help.
“They are very hard to successfully rehabilitate and get back into the wild. It was a fun challenge figuring out how to bring out their instinctually wild behaviors while also making them happy and healthy,” Trull said.
Contrary to popular belief, sloths aren’t just lazy, boring furballs!
“I think one of my favorite things about sloths is that they mind their own business. I realize that the ‘circle of life’ requires all kinds of species of animals, including mischievous monkeys and carnivorous cats … but how can I not be drawn to species that just want to eat their leaves, relax in the sunshine and the breeze, and have a good scratch?!”
That experience, along with the sloths themselves, made her realize that she was born to help sloths.
“I co-founded The Sloth Institute because I wanted to spend all of my energy and time getting my hand-raised babies into the jungle and studying the entire process so that future babies could benefit from the knowledge.”
The Sloth Institute’s missions are simple: research, collaboration, and education.
They want to research captive and wild sloths, collaborate with other institutions that work with sloths around the world, and educate the public with responsible and balanced scientific information.
All the research and observation that the Institute is undertaking is vital, due to the fact that there is actually little known about sloths and their behaviors in the wild.
“This kind of in-depth and long-term behavioral study has never been done before on sloths and we are already uncovering a lot of unknown information that will help save … sloth populations in need of protection from habitat destruction,” Trull says.
Human encroachment and habitat destruction are huge threats to every species on the planet.
Sloths, specifically, need the right kind of trees (and enough of them) to survive and live healthy lives.
Trull also reminds people to be responsible tourists as a way of helping sloths and other animals.
If you see someone asking for money to take a picture with, hold, or pet a sloth, always refuse. “Those industries steal sloths from the wild for tourists to touch, and the sloths die from stress. Because of the muscles in their face, it leads to a permanent smile and people think they are happy; but if a wild sloth is near humans, they are always stressed,” Trull explains.
So how do sloths end up at The Sloth Institute?
One way is that baby sloths become motherless orphans, for reasons unknown. These babies usually find their way to the Institute when they are anywhere from a few hours old to a few months old.
Sometimes, adult sloths also end up in Trull’s care. These sloths are usually injured and arrive at the Institute after making their way to Kids Saving The Rainforest’s rescue clinic.
Adults are usually injured due to electrocution. This happens when sloths climb electrical wires that have been connected through trees. Occasionally, they are hurt when hit by cars or attacked by dogs or other animals. Once they’re in Trull’s care, the aim of the game is to get the sloths healthy enough to return to the wild and live as naturally as possible.
Sloths have a unique diet. Anything they ingest must be carefully monitored to make sure that their natural bacteria are not disturbed. Trull and her team also have to be very sensitive in the way that they treat the baby sloths at the Institute.
They have to do their best to act as the baby sloths’ own biological mothers would, helping them to practice climbing, clinging, and foraging. Aside from her important work at The Sloth Institute, Trull has also written a book, called Slothlove, to help people understand her favorite animals a bit better.
Trull’s goal in writing the book, which is also chock full of her own photos of her sweet sloths, is to “help people develop a respect for sloths while also learning about them and dispelling all of those insane myths that are floating around in popular culture.”And with a face like that, who wouldn’t want the best for these mammals?
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