Loving sloths is generally a long distance relationship. As much as we all love these adorable rainforest creatures, it’s not hard to find them anywhere near where we live unless you happen to live in the tropical rainforest. We don’t, do you?
Even if you did live in the tropical rainforest, that doesn’t mean you are anywhere near sloths. Rainforests in Asia, Australia and Africa are completely devoid of sloths. Sad, right? Well, sloths only live in the Americas, and in the tropical rainforests, sloths are only found in some specific habitats. Today we’ll talk about where we find the sloth’s habitat, places you can visit to see sloths, and the importance of protecting that habitat.
Previously we talked about exhibits with up-close and personal experiences with sloths in North America:
However, today we are talking about where sloths can be found in the wild.
As already stated, sloths live in tropical rainforests in certain parts of Central and South America. Sloths can be found in these countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. So, if you have a trip coming up to any of those countries, keep in mind that you might need to spend some time looking for sloths.
These countries are home to some of the lushest and most pristine tropical forests. This is why we don’t find sloths further north, where such habitat is missing. But why do sloths live exclusively in these tropical places?
Let’s review a couple things about sloths:
- They live in trees, and despite their surprising ability to swim, they are almost completely helpless on the ground. So if they are not somewhere with lots of big trees, sloths' lives could be at risk.
- Sloths can be picky eaters. Some species of sloth only eat the leaves of the Cecropia tree (at least primarily) and this is a tree that only grows in tropical environments. In other habitats, the sloths could go hungry.\
- Some evidence leads us to believe sloths are dependent on the moths and algae that live in their fur (Why Are Sloths Green? An Ecosystem in their Fur.) Important nutrition might be missing without those creatures that share the sloths’ fur. Without the immense amounts of rain that falls in the tropics, the sloth’s fur wouldn’t be able to sustain the algae.
So sloths are found in the tropical rainforests of Latin America. If you live in the US or Canada, Latin America isn’t that faraway. So, you should start planning a trip. To make your sloth sanctuary trip easier, we are going to share 4 unique places where you can see sloths in the wild:
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
If you’re not willing to go deep into the rainforest, La Fortuna is one of the most accommodating places to see wild sloths (and if you are willing to don some serious hiking gear, don’t worry, we’ll get to a few options in a moment). Located northwest of San Jose, La Fortuna is a small town with gorgeous views of two volcanoes: Arenal, which is active, and Chato, which is dormant.
It’s also home to Bogarin Trail, a private urban park with 1.24 miles of walking trails. Take a guided tour, and you’ll stand a decent chance of seeing both two- and three-fingered sloths along with basilisks, snakes, toucans, and various other wild animals. This is one of the least “remote" options on this list, as you’ll still be able to hear the sounds from the city while taking your tour, but it’s a convenient way to see sloths without sacrificing many creature comforts (no pun intended).
Tambopata National Reserve, Peru
Located in the Peruvian Amazon between Cuzco and the Bolivian border, Tambopata National Reserve has numerous jungle lodges offering overnight accommodations for tourists. Some of the reserves offers treetop walks, so if you’ve ever wanted to traverse canopy walkways high above the rainforest floor, you’re in luck. If you’re set on seeing an elusive two-toed sloth, consider booking a jungle nightwalk with an experienced guide.
While Tambopata is open year round, your best bet is to visit during the dry season from May to October, as rain could thwart or damper your sloth-spotting efforts.
Daniel Johnson’s Monkey & Sloth Hangout, Honduras
is a quaint animal park sanctuary in French Cay, Roatan. This island attraction is a must for exotic animal lovers wishing to interact with Roatan sloths, Capuchin Monkeys, Scarlet Macaws, and parrots! Other animals include the indigenous Agouti or Guatusa, also known as the Roatan Island rabbit and Spider Monkeys. A South American raccoon is sure to please, an exotic animal only seen in this part of the world.
For your leisure, the animal park provides lounging chairs during your visit at no extra cost. Relax and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Caribbean. Mangroves surround the perimeter of Daniel Johnson’s Monkey & Sloth Hangout, there you can find more of nature’s wildlife. The islands seen across the channel are Little French Key and Big French Key, private island day resort destinations for cruise ship passengers and resort guests.
Centro de Reabilitação Reserva Zoobotânica.
Ilhéus, on Bahia's Cocoa Coast, is home to one of the most important animal rehabilitation centers in the Americas: Centro de Reabilitação Reserva Zoobotânica. Here's an amazing chance to come up close to these docile animals, with their deeply expressive eyes, slow-motion routines and the Megatherium far up their family tree.
Endemic to the Americas, sloths can be two-toed, such as the ones you can see at The Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary in Limon, Costa Rica, or three-toed (Bradypodidae), like the ones at the Ilhéus center. The sanctuary receives animals apprehended from poachers, found and donated by Ibama (the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), the Federal Police, firefighters and the community.
Preserving Sloth’s Habitat
Sloth’s are crafty creatures. They have managed to evolve in such a unique way that to many they seem weird, but their ability to move around in trees and even their very slowness is a specialized way to stay alive and so they have survived for millions of years.
Though they manage to survive against some of the deadliest animals in nature (like the jaguar) they are now struggling against an even deadlier creature: human beings.
Humans pose a couple threats:
- We destroy the sloth’s habitat
- We pouch sloths from the wild to be placed in exhibits
We should do everything we can to reduce our impact on the rainforest, and to make sure that any interaction with sloths that we pay for is a service provided by someone with the sloth’s best interest at heart.
For more information on the subject, please check out our other articles: