Don’t get me wrong, elephants and tigers are great, but they have had their moment. Not to mention the inherent dangers and potential dilemmas that arise from up close interactions with these wild animals. Many people seek out these experiences in places like Thailand and India, only to find they’ve inadvertently been supporting centuries old practices of animal cruelty and exploitation. Many of these animals have been stripped from their mothers at birth and “domesticated” by being thrust into the arms of excited tourists. You have to think long and hard if that selfie is really worth it.
Why sloths? Was a sillier question ever asked? The obvious answer is, “just look at them.” Their stuffed animal-esque demeanor, their permanent grin, the “take it easy” attitude, what’s not to love? They are quite possibly the perfect animal. Exotic enough to cause quite a stir on your Instagram account, but docile folivores that are far less likely to land you on the 5 o’clock news.
Here are five places around the world to interact with sloths:
The Asociacion Panamericana Para La Conservacion - Panama
A wildlife rehabilitation center that takes in all kinds of local creatures, they get more than their fair share of sloths due to problems like loss of habitat, natural predators, and car injuries. The APPC even has a few resident sloths not suitable for re-release into the wild due to the nature of their injuries or the amount of time spent in captivity. In fact, a three toed sloth named Coquito has become a mascot of sorts for the neighboring Gamboa Rainforest Resort. You can see a free presentation about these magnificent animals or tour the facility for a $7 donation.
Sloth Sanctuary - Costa Rica
About 30 minutes south of Limon, if you watch Animal Planet, you may already be familiar with Sloth Sanctuary as the setting of the show, “Meet the Sloths," but you may not know you can actually visit the sanctuary and meet the stars. For $30, you can take the “Buttercup tour” where you will meet the sanctuary’s most famous resident. You’ll also get to tour the nursery and go for a canoe ride to witness sloths in their natural habitat. For $150, the “insider’s tour” also gets you access to see the newborns in the NICU and a light meal. Want to spend a night with the animals? There are on site accommodations available.
Colombia Sloth Sanctuary - Colombia
Most of the sloths at the Colombia Sloth Sanctuary in Medellin have been rescued from illegal trafficking situations, an unfortunate pastime in the country. Through the group Globalteer, you can actaully volunteer to aid in the care of the resident sloths. Prices start at $725 for one week, which includes hostel accommodations, airport transfers, and transportation to and from the sanctuary.
Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center - USA
The Captive Sloth Husbandry Research Center in Rainier, Oregon offers several up close and personal encounters with these cuties right on the mainland. For $30, you can get a smooch and an “I kissed a sloth and I liked it” tee to a $300 private camping experience where you can actually sleep inside a tent in the sloth enclosure! Their website stresses that federal regulations are rapidly changing and experiences like this may not be available for much longer, so this is one instance where operating at a sloth-like pace is not recommended.
The Colchester Zoo - England
The Colchester Zoo offers many “shadow a keeper” experiences with their wildlife, including sloths. Setting you back about 75 GBP ($110), you will learn about the zoo’s resident Linnie’s two-toed sloths as you assist in the day-to-day care of these adorable creatures. Advanced bookings are strongly recommended.