Love and Respect for Sloths
Do you ever smile when you are anxious? Laugh when you feel uncomfortable? Often, our external appearances can be deceiving.
Remember the slow Loris? How many people used to mistake them holding up their arms as an adorable invitation to be tickled? As it turns out, when they lift their arms, they are preparing to rub a venomous gland underneath their arms and deliver a bite which can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death in humans.
The sloth’s calm demeanor can also be misleading.
In Costa Rica, the image of a “smiling” three-fingered sloth has become somewhat of a national symbol for the “Pura Vida” lifestyle of Ticos. You can find three-fingered sloths on t-shirts surfing, doing yoga, drinking beer, etc. The seemingly always relaxed, easy-going attitude of the sloth is what many people seek when visiting Costa Rica.
This love of sloths is a wonderful thing. However, loving sloths completely and respecting them for the wild animals they are, requires a broadening of our affection for them. There are aspects of nature and wild animals that are incredibly stunning, and other realities that are appallingly brutal (i.e infanticide – a common reality that sloths and many other creatures face). Nature is full of symbiotic and competitive relationships.
Say NO to sloth yoga.
Loving sloths means respecting their wild side. Although it may seem from their docile appearance that they are ok with being held or are fine visiting yoga classes and tonight shows, they are ultimately wild animals with unique needs and wants independent of ours, meant for a life in the rainforest.
Not only are these situations scientifically proven to be stressful for sloths, but they also normalize the idea that encounters like this are OK. The latest sloth yoga event to make headlines actually advertises the fact that paying guests can pet, feed and take a selfie with the sloth. This is despite there being plenty of information available online that details the dark side of these encounters. These events directly feed the “wildlife selfie” demand that is decimating wild sloth populations throughout South and Central America. It is the exploitation of a wild animal for profit and it needs to stop.
Just like there are parts of ourselves and others that we find difficult to accept, loving sloths unconditionally means accepting all parts of them.
And if you are a true sloth lover, it means keeping them out of yoga classes, out of the hands of tourists, and in the rainforest where they belong.