A reply to: "The dark side of the sloth sanctuary"

Trip Start Jul 12, 2012
Trip End Sep 21, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Sunday, September 30, 2012


I'm currently in Italy on an excavation but still the sloth sanctuary and my sloths are never really far from my mind. I know most of you, especially my parents, don't seem to understand the bond I have with this place and it's animals and why I love the place so much. This I find totally understandable. You can never really understand someones feeling until you have personally experienced it and even then you might not have the same outcome.

I have been keeping up with Daniella's blog who was one of the volunteers whilst I was there. It's been nice to still see what's been going on whilst I have been away and to see the sloths in pictures. Kind of like a sloth quick fix. Daniella's last and latest blog on the sloth sanctuary was utterly surprising to me (http://www.thewondersofwandering.com/the-dark-side-of-the-sloth-sanctuary/) and I was perplexed/enraged at her opinions in it. I also couldn't understand at all where nor how this opinion had been formed. I was there at the same time as her and experienced the exact same things yet I only have a positive view of the sanctuary. I also did not comprehend how, when she was only a volunteer for a mere three weeks, could possibly have an expert knowledge on everything about the sanctuary, the sloths and the people who worked there. She certainly wasn't privy to the inner workings of the sanctuary and most of her opinions seem to be only that her own personal opinions and not actual fact.

In her blog entitled 'The dark side of the Sloth Sanctuary', she commented on what she didn't like about the sanctuary. This was basically a scathing review of what the sloths ate, their health, their boredom levels, their lack of contact with humans and how the sanctuary was run and on the family who lives there. Funnily enough she posted this blog after she had left the sanctuary, which she said was because she "knew that there were a lot of people who enjoyed reading about (her) adventure and were having a ball falling in love with these creatures" (King, D. 2012) and therefore didn't want to ruin it for them. Why post it at all then? Personally I believe she cowardly waited until she had left to post it as she knew that Judy, the founder, had been reading her blog as Daniella had personally given her the link to it.

Firstly, before I get in to it, I would like to say that am in no way an expert on the sanctuary. Nor am I affiliated with them in any way. They are more than capable of fighting their own battles and this I'm sure isn't the first bad thing that has been said about them on the Internet. I however felt that as this review was set whilst I was there that I wanted to say something too. I am a huge animal lover and I am not one to sit back and just let cruelty happen. I am planning on going back to the sanctuary as soon as possible and I would never return to somewhere that I thought was a bad place. Nor would I have stayed for as long as I did if the sanctuary was how Daniella describes it.

I was only volunteering at the sanctuary for a month, but like Daniella I now feel it is necessary to voice my observations and experiences at the sanctuary and what I learnt about it whilst I was volunteering. I especially wanted to write a response to her 'review' as I believe it is a completely unfair account of the sanctuary and I think it is unfortunate that people will see what she has said as the truth. The point of this entry is not to be argumentative but to debunk the 'facts' from her account and to at least give people two sides to the story rather then one. That way you can make up your own minds. I honestly don't know how Daniella came to form these opinions. I know she absolutely adored the sloths and seemed to be having a great time at the sanctuary, as evident from her other blog posts. However the information she has recently posted is firstly extremely misinformed and secondly she doesn't seem to have actually put a lot of thought into what she is actually claiming as every single thing can be refuted.

Accompanying this blog were general sloth photos with ridiculous titles including a photo of a Bradypyus sleeping with the title, "sloth life is not so fun when your (sic) locked up" and one of Shiloh and Poko, who have just been moved into the big boy enclosures from the nursery where they were handled everyday, entitled, "Poko and Shiloh dying of boredom wanting to be let out". It is hardly surprising to find a sloth sleeping nor is it shocking to find two juvenile sloths wanting to be taken out like they were before. It is more than simple to put up a photo with titles like this and perpetrate a certain image.

Now there are of course some things I would love to change about the sanctuary, no place is perfect. I wish the enclosures could be a bit bigger, I wish they were able to complete some projects like the sprinkler system so that there would perhaps be less sloth skin problems and I wish they could have had a more natural diet (the three fingered do but the two fingered do not). Most of the things I just listed are due to a money problem and a lack of it. Do I wish they could release all of the sloths? Yes. Do I wish they had less health problems? Yes. Do I realise that there isn't actually a lot they can do about this, unfortunately. But that is life, and life often doesn't work out how we want it to. Like I said no place is perfect and neither is life.


According to Daniella she felt that she was funding the family who runs the sanctuary rather than the sloths with her volunteering money. This to me was a pretty shocking statement especially with the example she uses. This example was the fact that David, one of the grandsons of Judy the owner, has a big 4 wheel truck that she didn't believe he could have afforded it on a $2 Costa Rican wage. In fact the bank actually owns his truck and he makes monthly payments for it. So no he can't afford it on this wage nor is he using the money from the sanctuary to buy such luxuries. This truck is not only for personal use but is used to help the sanctuary with day to day tasks. I also happen to know that Jeff, another grandson, is on a $2 wage and is currently saving for a truck but at present cannot afford one. To be honest the thought that he might of used the sanctuaries money hadn't even crossed my mind. Therefore to insinuate that he used the money for the sanctuary to buy a truck without any factual evidence or proof is frankly outrageous. To call Judy, the founder of the sanctuary, "a dum dum" (King, D. 2012) was also a particular low point of the blog. One thing I know for certain about the family at the sanctuary is that they work extremely hard and have only just changed the opening hours of the sanctuary so they can actually have one day off a week. They honestly sound like terrible people don't they.

Before this blog came out I tried to work out how much the sanctuary would cost to run. According to an outdated edition of the Costa Rican paper,'The Tico Times' (Tico Times. 2010) it costs $10,000 a month to run and $400 a year per sloth (Costa Rican Times. 2012). I have been informed that in total the sanctuary actually costs $26,000 a month to stay open. This total covers everything and includes insurance, the staff wages and bonuses, surgeries and so on (1. I have added a breakdown of this in my notes section at the bottom). During her money section Daniella says that there were at least 15 volunteers during her stay who were all contributing $65 a day to the sanctuary. I'm sorry but this is a complete lie. During her 3 weeks there were no more than 9 people there including me (and I was for most of my stay paying a great deal less then I should have been) and not including Jorge and Dusty who weren't paying any money to the sanctuary at all nor Becca who is actually doing her PhD at the sanctuary. So instead of $15,000 it was actually $6500, and I've included Erin, a volunteer who didn't pay for her four days stay (2. if you are really interested I've added the sum and volunteers to the notes section). Quite a bit different from the truth isn't? If you're going to write a 'review' and spread this information to people at least make sure your facts are correct. So the volunteers contribution from nearly a month doesn't even near cover the sanctuaries running costs. They obviously supplement this with donations, adoptions, tours and so on but that is still a lot of money to raise in just one month.

Some of the problems Daniella wrote about were to do with money. One example of this is how they need to raise the roof in one of the sections as it is too hot and by raising the roof they can get more ventilation in there. This is completely true and needs to be done but as far as I am aware, unlike what Daniella has suggested, it is on the 'To Do' list which I am sure is unfortunately rather large. However at the moment they are finishing another building project and therefore cannot afford, nor do they have the man power (which is the general staff) to do another project. There is then nothing they can really do about it at present which obviously is not ideal but what can you do when you don't have enough money to do everything you want to? This is apparently not good enough for the critics as they supposedly must believe that the sanctuary has millions of dollars and can easily do these projects at a whim. Perhaps they are also under the impression that sloths can poo pure gold and that the trees at the sanctuary don't actually grow food for the sloths but in fact grow 10,000 colones notes and $100 bills? This current building project is actually new enclosures for incoming sloths. They ideally want to move sloths out of the old enclosures and into the new ones but they have such an influx of new animals that they often can't do that. So it is not that they want to "entrap even more sloths... (or want) more mouths to feed" (King, D. 2012), but they are hardly going to turn away an injured sloth that needs medical attention or a baby sloth that has come into the sanctuary for various reasons and leave it to die unattended. Along with the fact that they currently have 4-5 babies up in the special care nursery and 7-8 babies in the downstairs nursery and no where to put them when they're big enough they seriously need new enclosures or the grown up babies will still be living in a baby sized enclosure.


As I mentioned, the two fingered sloths do not get their natural diet. They often have almond leaves, which are in their natural diet, on a daily basis, sometimes they don't. For the most part they are given a diet of vegetables, barros leaves, which are a natural leaf substitute, and currently they were testing dog food on the sloths. Now I know dog food probably sounds a little bit odd but it is also full of lots of yummy vitamins and minerals, especially the puppy food they were being given. Now of course I would love them to only eat what they usually do in the wild but when you're feeding about 120 two fingered sloths a day who aren't going to be released (so therefore will not be going back to their natural diet and most of them were raised at the sanctuary) this often isn't plausible. In fact 4 months ago before Jorge, a long term volunteer, got to the sanctuary the almond trees on site where dying and not producing hardly any leaves for the sloths to eat. He bought them back to life and now they are producing leaves on rotation so that they should never run out if the trees are looked after properly. The sloths will therefore have a more of these leaves in their diet everyday.Of course this doesn't seem to be an important enough fact to be mentioned in the blog, that they do actually get some leaves that are natural to them. Judy also wishes that they don't have more natural food everyday but the diet they do give the sloths is actually a combination of diets that has been used in zoo's for the last 50 years (http://www.buffalozoo.org/Two_Toed_Sloth.pdf). Sloths also live up to 40 or more years on this diet, so it's obviously not bad for them in the slightest. And what exactly do we feed our animals? I'm not calling sloths pets here but our animals hardly have a natural diet. I'm fairly certain that there is not 'Pedigree Chum' lying about in the wild nor are cats standing in a river upstream like a bear to catch salmon. We give them a diet of what is good for them but certainly isn't their natural diet because often you just can't. It's not just domesticated pets but animals that are more exotic, or 'wild' animals like snakes, lizards, fish and so on.

According to the blog the sanctuary do not euthanise sloths who have "the will to live" (King, D. 2012) and could live a fairly normal life. This I believe would be the response of any animal owner. An example she used was one of my own sloths from my section, Ubu. Ubu is paralysed from the waist down but is perfectly able at getting around using his arms. I have seen this with my own eyes, he's kind of like a sloth Tarzan. He has recently been moved back into the nursery for his health as he kept getting pressure sores on his back from dragging himself across his platform and due to his paralysis he has no bladder control and just goes whenever. Unfortunately as he and his two enclosure friends, Yodo and Sherlock, love to be wrapped up in each other, they often are just sat in his waste. He was therefore moved for his own health and that of Sherlock and Yodo. Pretty rational you would say. Not so, according to Daniella's judgement he is now wasting away in a cage and therefore probably should have been put down due to his disabilities. Now Ubu and I bonded quite a lot during my stay and I can say that without a doubt it would have been a genuine crime to euthanise him. He, despite his paralysis, is a happy and cheeky little sloth and is actually getting far more attention now then he would have in his big boy enclosure as he gets taken out on a nearly daily basis by volunteers.

One photo pointed out that some of the sloths have worms. This is correct about 10-15 of the sloths have worms. This parasite spreads very, very easily. I should know, I had them as a child due to the fact that my brother used to play with stones in our garden that an infected cat had urinated on. This is obviously not good and even worse it can't be treated in the sloths because the medicine that we can so easily give to our pets, KILLS sloths. That's right sloths, although fairly indestructible can be killed by medicine that we can give to any old normal animal. Most of the ongoing medical problems the sloths have; mange, worms etc are because the medicine that can be used on other animals doesn't work on sloths or harms or kills them. This is not just a captive sloth problem, wild sloths who come in to the sanctuary sometimes have terrible mange but the solution is using shampoo's and medicine that are toxic to them. Perhaps we should just euthanise them when this problem occurs rather than trying to look after them as best as one can?

Another main issue was that most of the sloths do not get daily attention, especially the adults. This is again completely true. But as far as I am aware the sloth sanctuary is not a petting zoo. Most sloths at the sanctuary also have companions with them in their enclosures to keep them company. Shockingly sloths in the wild are actually completely solitary unless they are mating or carrying an infant sloth. So actually it's against their natural instinct to be constantly handled. So which is it? You want them to be released into the wild to live normal lives or you want them to be treated like pets? Not only that but the two fingered sloths don't want to be picked up. The babies certainly do, like Shiloh and Poko, but they've just come from the nursery and are used to being handled. Trust me if you try and pick up any old two fingered sloth and carry it around like a baby they will 100%2525 bite you. The Bradypus are completely different and like to be handled, an example she uses is that Wall-E a three finger Bradypus, often sticks his head out of his enclosure when he wants to be taken out. We don't ignore him, when he does this he is telling us he wants to come out so we take him out. We keep taking him out until he stops doing it for another week or so and then take him out again. Funnily enough we did the same for the juvenile two fingered sloths who wanted to be held like Shiloh and Poko. So the sloths in the enclosures who want attention are given it.

Releasing the sloths

So now I move on to the very important subject of releasing sloths. This is the ideal and while was at the sanctuary we released two wild sloths that we had treated back into the wild. I can personally vouch for this as I went along when we released the first (see photos). In fact the sanctuary, since 2000 have released 96 sloths that have come to them to be treated. These wild sloths did not go into the sloth enclosures and were kept to "simply rot in their entrapment" (King, D. 2012), but released back into their natural habitat. Again the fact that sloths were released whilst she was volunteering there does not seem to warrant a mention at all.

As I have said in previous blogs and spoken to a few of you, when a baby sloth comes into the sanctuary it cannot be released into the wild again. This is pretty devastating, I totally agree with Daniella. BUT, a baby sloth lives with its mother for up to a year in the wild. She teaches her baby what leaves to eat and she teaches him/her to rotate leaves so that the toxicity of the leaves doesn't build up in their system and kill them. Oddly this is not something that the sanctuary can teach the babies and often they are far too young (under a year) when they come into the sanctuary to be re-released and have become used to human contact. The other sloths that are still at the sloth sanctuary are the ones that could not take care of themselves in the wild, they are; blind, paralysed, have broken limbs, cannot climb properly and many, many other things.

Evidence Daniella uses for the fact the sanctuary is apparently lying about their goal to release the sloths back in to the wild is Duchess. Duchess is a two fingered sloth who was severely burnt by power lines. According to Daniella's blog she is perfectly ready to be released back into the wild. But hold on, she actually can't use one of arms at all due to it being so broken. This break is so bad that they might not even be able to fix it with surgery and may have to remove it. If this is the case she will never be able to be released into the wild. At the moment they are giving her x-rays three times a week and hoping that the arm will mend naturally. If not surgery is definitely an option on the table but it may be too broken to mend. She is therefore, in no way, ready to be released back into the wild now.

Apparently most of the sloths there "are in perfectly good condition to be released" (King, D. 2012), yes actually they are in good condition thanks to the sanctuary. As I have pointed out though most have ailments that means they wouldn't survive in the wild or have been raised from babies and therefore would not be able to take care of themselves. Alarmingly at the end of her blog Daniella suggests that although 'some' of the sloths might die if they were released into the wild that it is a risk worth taking. I was literally shocked at this suggestion. Not only would MOST not some of the sloths die if they were sent off into the wild but I can imagine that she would be more than devastated if she sent some of her pet favourites into the wild and they died. Or maybe she would keep those ones behind for "endless snuggles" (King, D. 2012). Remember these are sloths who are blind (Little Angel), only have one arm (Darla), can't climb properly (Faith and Pj), are disabled (Ubu & Bruno) and these are just a mere few examples. The majority though have been raised as infants and therefore would not survive either. Can you imagine shoving them back into the wild to fend for themselves? It would be more than cruel.


I clearly had a completely different experience of the sanctuary to Daniella's. This is perfectly fair, everyone experiences are different but I cannot see how someone could come to this place and not fall in love with it, the sloths and the people who work so hard there doing the best they can. Isn't that all we can really do? To me the sanctuary was honestly magical. I have never felt more at home so quickly as I have there. I loved the work, I loved the animals more than I thought I ever could and I loved the way the sanctuary worked. I am still in contact with most of the volunteers during my time there and they all loved it too. It really is a minority that feels how Daniella does. But you really can never please everyone.
I spoke quite often to Marcelo the vet there and one time he said to me that he was offered a much better paying position as a vet in San Jose but he didn't take it because he loved it at the sanctuary. He said that he loved how different the work was everyday and learning about an animal that people don't really know a lot about, especially in terms of veterinary sciences. But most of all he loved how it felt like he was living with one big family who all worked together and that not only was he a vet but he was a builder, gardener etc. I completely agreed with him, apart from the core family the rest of the staff are basically extended family and they all pull together to make the sanctuary work as best as they can. Like I said no place is perfect and the sloth sanctuary is no exception but we can only do what we can with the means and materials that we have. Frankly the staff and the family who run it are doing an amazing job and if I were a sloth who wouldn't survive in the wild if released I can't think of a better place to be.

What would you choose?

If you would like to help Rebecca Cliffe release the sloths at The Sloth Sanctuary then please go to her research funding page and help out. She needs money for the expensive equipment needed to study the sloths so they can start safely releasing them: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-our-sloths

Update: Daniella has argued against all of this with more 'facts', I feel responding would be futile and I respect the sanctuary's wishes that it would be pointless to continuing arguing the same points. You've read the truth here and are therefore able to form your own opinions whatever they may be, love Sarah

n.b. I would like to add that this post has edited this from my original one on the 2/10/11 as I have done more research on the subject and wanted add more information to this piece. I have also added photos as I have finally been able to get to a computer! I have also put it into sections to make it easier!


King, D. 2012. "The dark side of the sloth sanctuary" (http://www.thewondersofwandering.com/the-dark-side-of-the-sloth-sanctuary/)
Costa Rican Times. 2012. "Costa Rica's amazing sloths. (http://www.costaricantimes.com/costa-ricas-amazing-sloths/5735)

Tico Times. 2010. "Change pace at the Sloth Sanctuary C.R." (http://www.ticotimes.net/Weekend/Travel/Change-Pace-at-the-Sloth-Sanctuary-of-C.R._Friday-October-15-2010)

Buffalo Zoo. 2012. (http://www.buffalozoo.org/Two_Toed_Sloth.pdf)


1. The sanctuary has nearly 140 sloths that's around $5000 a month to look after the sloths. They also have a permanent staff of 13, two of whom are vets and I would guess that they earn a lot more than the regular staff. I would also guess that they all earn at least $2 an hour (so minimum wage) for 8 hours of work a day. So that is again nearly $6000 a month, at a minimum. To fund the sanctuary they use money that they charge the volunteers for them working there, tours, adoptions and donations. Now whilst I was at the sanctuary for a month there were at least 10 volunteers (not including myself), who were paying about $65 a day which works out to about $10,000 a month.

2. Volunteers, the amount of time they stayed and how much they paid during Daniella's stay:
Sarah - 10 days at $25= $250
Daniella - 21 days at $65= $1365
Brittany - 17 days at $65= $1105
Gavin and Kym - 14 days each at $65= $1820
Erin - 4 days at $80= $320 (not paid)
Juliet & Ameila - 5 days at $80= $800
Christiane - 10 days at $80= $800
Total: $6460
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Daniella on

Sarah, Thanks again for sharing my story. Making a change as big as this is going to take as much press and media coverage as I can get. Good luck in your travels as well as to all the people that will one day have the frustration of meeting you. I assume you will delete this comment but there is a saying...If everyone you ever meet can’t stand you...Its probably not everyone else...Its you...Believe me dear Sarah, you have many more critics then just the one. Rather the rest of us have better things to do then to educate someone on social norms. I am happy to hear my blog enraged you...the poor treatment in animals ENRAGED all of us volunteers as well. Enjoy the hole you have shoved your head into. And cheers mate!

blondesontour on

Hi Daniella,
I of course will not delete your comment. Everyone is allowed there own opinion, which is why the Internet is so great. That's why I wrote the blog though, it's my opinion. I thought it was only fair that people would be able t sides to a coin rather than one so I'm more than happy to share your blog in comparison to mine. If the volunteers were so unhappy why didn't you all say something while you were there? I find that odd but there you go. Most volunteers love it there. Anyway it's your opinion. There's honestly no need to be personally insulting it just makes you seem petty which isn't going to help your cause.
Thanks for reading anyway, if you did.
I'm being honest when I say good luck in Nicaragua, I hope all the Spanish goes well and you have a great time.

Marcus Wood on

So Daniella responded to this well constructed, in depth response to her article with personal attacks. It's clear who is the one to trust on this issue. Thank you for putting my mind at rest, Sarah, and I'm sorry you had to deal with someone as obviously vicious as Daniella.

blondesontour on

Hi Marcus, thanks for your comment and thanks for reading. I know it's quite long!
I'm glad you read both and made up your own mind. That's all I wanted from this post. Please feel free to send this along to anyone who might be interested.
Thanks again,

Aimee Hunt on

Is this Daniella chick intending to come across as pious and condescending as she's managed? Dear me... if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all- didn't your mother teach you any manners? ;)

Tracy on

Considering Daniella locked her original blog post, i don't take her opinions very highly. I am currently saving money to adopt a sloth at the sanctuary, and I am proud of the work they do. I work for a non-profit organization and I know how hard it is to accomplish everything with a minuscule budget. I know Judy is doing the best she can, and they need more help, not criticism like Daniella's load of horse shit.
Also, I love your pictures and I'd love to hear more about your time at the sanctuary. (tracy DOT a DOT dalton AT gmail DOT com) I can't wait to go there someday.

blondesontour on

Hi Tracy!
Thanks for your comment! I thought I'd replied to you but apparently it didn't send. That's awesome that you want to adopt a sloth! Do you have a particular one in mind? I think they have about 15 up for adoption at the moment.

Judy does work incredibly hard at the sanctuary so I'm glad there are tons of people supporting her and the staff. They really are doing an amazing job. What kind of non-profit do you work for?

I will be back at the sanctuary in January and will be continuing my blog there. This time I should actually be able to do photos on it as I'm going to take my laptop. Feel free to follow me then and check out all the sloth photos. I can't wait to get back there, I'm sure you'll love it when you go :) Good luck with the saving!!

Best wishes

Francesca on

Thank you SO MUCH for writing down this article, I've been at the Sloth Sanctuary last March and i was so angry ad Danielle's post, but unfortunately due to my lack of knowledge in English I couldn't argue as well as you did.
[So thank you again, I remember people shocked by the dog food like it was poo, but I also remember Judy explaing that they would have rather give them something else but they just couldn't because of the bad season. Last summer it was very bad and there just wasn't anything else the could give them, but as soon as mango arrived the dog food was long forgotten, so why don't why ask "oh what can I do to NOT make them use dog food as it's the only thing that is available and good for them?"
Better preach than act.]
Really if you are at the Sancutuary and you have any concern about their diet, their well being, their treatment just and ask Judy or her daughter, they have always find the time to explain me things and they have always left me without a doubt.

blondesontour on

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you liked it. Your English seems really good! Yes and when they don't know what the full natural sloth diet is (due to no research being previously done) they have to give them what is good for them and what's available. Like I said this diet is used in zoo's as well so it's more than fine for them.

The sanctuary are actually starting a project to find out more about the sloths natural diet alongside the Discovery Channel and a zoologist who works with the sanctuary. So that should be pretty interesting! But yes just asking about it rather than not saying anything and not getting the correct information is never a good idea. But there you go!

I'm glad you had such an amazing time as me! And thanks for the support on the blog! :) Feel free to follow it when I'm back in January. Let me know if you have a favourite sloth and I can send you a picture when I'm back!


Francesca on

On more thing :D :
Also about the brady walk, I've been the "brady lady" for two weeks and you will think people being happy about it but no! I had to fought with a grown up man about how insensitive the walk was... like... we were playing with the brady and just having fun while they were being made of. I was speechless because at that moment I realized that not everyone understand that this is a project in progress and not a reality as it is.
It will take time, money and energy but they are all hoping for a change and a better life for the sloths. That seemed pretty obvious to me.
Like did Danielle know that one of the plans is to transform all the property outside the Sanctuary so that the plants are all edible for the sloths when they will be release? Or did she know that they want to track the sloths released with an electric device that cost up to 5000$ each? Or did she ever asked what happened to the 15 sloths release in the past, and how Judy was heartbroken when they all died?

I wish I could go back! I've cried so much when I came back, but if you have (or will have) any news about Darla, Laurel and my dearest sweetest Melaza (and her "neighbors" aka my section ♥) you would make me very very happy!

blondesontour on

Darla? You mean the brady with one arm right? She, when I left was absolutely fine. Did she go into heat while you were there? Man her cries were LOUD ha. Melaza had some mange but it was treated while I was there, she's her usually loving self! I didn't really spend that much time with Laurel but as far as I'm aware she is also fine. I'll add a picture of them each to the blog when I'm back there :)

And no I don't think most people ask those kinds of questions and therefore don't get a full view of the sanctuary, which is a shame. Hopefully people who support the sanctuary and there efforts will be the main type of volunteers in the future!

Sarah x

Bk on

In all honesty I was considering volunteering at the sanctuary, as sloths are my favorite animals, until I did some research. Every review I could find said exactly what Daniella said, and some even worse and I read A LOT of reviews. So you saying her opinion was in the minority couldn't be farther from the truth. Even before I saw this blog I was completely disgusted and turned off from ever going there. The fact that so many people have the same experience and same opinions as Daniella I am inclined to believe her. I also feel you are probably a biased source being such good friends with the owner. Also the fact that the sanctuary tried to get her to take the blog down sends me SERIOUS red flags and makes them look even more sketchy. I'm not sure what you think Daniella would gain from slandering the sanctuary. Obviously she WANTED it to be a good experience or she wouldn't have paid through the nose just to be there. I sincerely hope something is done about this mistreatment as I feel physically sick about this.

blondesontour on

Hi BK, I too have read most of the reviews on trip advisor etc and the only bad reviews I have been able to find were ones complaining about the poor management of the volunteer program a couple of years ago. If I didn't find or read these bad reviews I apologise but apart from Daniella's I've never seen anything like that. The sanctuary did not ask her to remove it they asked her to point out that her blog was opinion and not fact. Insinuating stuff like David using sanctuary money to buy a car is slander. I get on well with the owners but we're not best friends, I would never fight for a place if I felt that they were in anyway mistreating the animals. They absolutely love and care for them as best as they can with the funds they have. I'm sure if you came here you would have had a wonderful time. Please feel free to post up the links to the bad reviews here as I obviously didn't find the ones you were talking about. If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to ask, I will be happy to answer them. Sloth really are amazing animals :) 

Sarah x

Andrew on

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for writing your perspective.

I came to your post after reading Daniella's side of the story.

I was planning to travel half way across the world with my fiance to volunteer at the Sloth Sanctuary, however we are both feeling very uncomfortable about it now. We have been planning our trip for some time and were really looking forward to it until we read Daniella's post. We are both vegetarians and love animals, and are worried that our hearts will be broken, just like Daniella's was.

From reading both sides and trying to assess things for myself, it seems to me that:

1. Your information is accurate concerning the money side of things - it seems pretty clear that Daniella had that part of the information wrong.

2. The euthanasia question is difficult and I respect both views because it is a very tough dilemma. I'm not even sure what I would decide if I was the one to make the choice. It would depend on a case by case basis to see if it is justified. In my opinion, there are times when death is a mercy. This is not a deal breaker for me because it is a very tough call.

3. As to the diet of the sloths, I find it very hard to accept your justification on how it is not possible to find enough/appropriate leaves during certain seasons, so dog food is the suitable option!!! The sloths in the wild have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in Costa Rica on their natural diet, and they didn't have the luxury of modern transportation which allows mass transportation of foods in and around the country. I admit I could be wrong on this point about how difficult it is to get them appropriate leaves, I am simply saying it seems very hard to believe that dog food is necessary. You say that sloth mothers teach babies which leaves to eat in which proportions/when etc Surely if the sanctuary knows what their natural diet is they can replicate this - after all, they have so many volunteers who are paying to be there to administer food at set intervals.

4. The most important point for me is "Why are the sloths sitting in tiny cages for 95% of their lives?" I was STUNNED when I saw the rows upon rows upon rows of tiny cages where most of the sloths stay for the rest of their lives. Surely instead of spending that money on so many cages it would be better to keep only the most desperate, injured ones in cages that need recuperation, and the rest able to roam on trees planted WITHIN the sanctuary for heaven's sake, or expand the boundaries of the sanctuary so that it includes various trees. To me, this is cruelty, plain and simple, not allowing them to roam in trees in a safe environment. You state that things are not perfect and no one expects perfection, but WOW spending 95% of your whole life in a tiny cage is not even close to basic dignity.

I also believe you have credibility that the Sanctuary does release some sloths. This is good news that not all sloths are imprisoned for life. But should we be celebrating the fact that not all people in jail have life sentences?

5. As to the baby squirrel in the cage, are you able to update us as to whether the squirrel has now been released into the wild? We will be devastated if we discover that it is still trapped in a cage.

I acknowledge that I have not visited the sanctuary myself - this is simply my perspective from reading both sides of the story. I'd be grateful if you would let me know if my comments are fair.

Many thanks,

blondesontour on

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for your comment and questions. I'll try and answer them as best as possible.

- in regards to the sloths diet when I was first at the sanctuary the leaves that we know they eat, almond leaves, were not growing in abundance and they had to supplement them. Since being back in January they are now much more plentiful and every single sloth is getting a lot of them everyday. Their diet is difficult because no research has been done on their natural diet so we don't know every leaf they eat. Especially in what order. Rebecca Cliffe (http://beckycliffe.blogspot.com/) is currently doing more research on this so they can start releasing most of the sloths that are there/that come in. The sanctuary for a long time were releasing the healthy babies but found they died within three months so they put it on hold until more research was completed.

- in regards to the dog food the three finger sloth gets only leaves because they are pure vegetarians, like you! The choloepus, or two finger is not a pure vegetarian and they have a small amount of protein in their diet. This is what the dog food provides them. This is used worldwide to keep a balance of protein in their diet and they do not get it everyday.

- I love your idea about having the sloths in the surrounding area but, and it's the same with animal release program's worldwide, you need a lot of manpower. You also need a lot of money, not just for wages but for tagging and so on to monitor them. Every injured sloth that can be out back into the wild goes back, some are too injured and wouldn't survive or are too young. Do you remember Daniella mentioning Duchess who has been burnt by power lines? When I left her arm was so badly broken she couldn't move, when I went back it had healed (amazingly) and she was about to be released.

- I of course completely agree with you about the cages, it's never, ever ideal. Judy who runs the place is honestly an incredible woman doing the best she can and she loves the sloths so much that she could never turn one away to potential death or starvation. She works harder then anyone I've ever met and is honestly heart broken when she reads things like Daniella put. She also didn't understand why she didn't say a single thing while she was there and could do something about it. But yes I do agree about the cages but like I said they are in the process of trying to start releasing as many as possible when they have the right information which is what I personally think is the right way to do it. You know they'll be safe and hopefully thrive out there rather than die.

-the baby squirrel is good, she's not at the sanctuary anymore but has gone to a special squirrel lady to be looked after. As of January it was doing well so I would hope its still doing good, as far as I'm aware it is going to be released when it's not a baby baby.

If you have any other questions or comments please feel free to write again

Andrew on

Dear Daniella,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to each of my questions. I found it very helpful.

My fiance and I will reflect about your points and decide whether we still support the Sloth Sanctuary.

Do you mind if I ask two follow-up questions?

1. Do you agree with Daniella when she mentioned that all the other volunteers agreed with Daniella's perspective about the situation of the sloth's living conditions (the rows of cages where most sloths reside)? Her blog seemed to suggest that you were the only one who was not appalled by them. I don't know if her comment is fair or not. What are your thoughts?

2. I respect Judy and I am sure she is an amazing person with the sloth's best interests in her mind. I also think it was very unfair for Daniella to make accusations about the family's monetary situation, which seems unjustified and hurtful. But my question to you is: Do you really believe that it is fair to the sloths to keep them so confined, and not give them the chance of a natural life (for the ones that can manage it, not just 2 or 3 lucky ones that were released)? I am sure that if someone locked me in a hospital and said "Andrew, you are free to rest in this hospital room and we will provide you with meals and medical care (except for worms and mange and other nasty things which despite our best efforts we can't stop because we don't have the funds or expertise). But we are making the decision for you that you will NEVER be allowed outside except for brief moments when a volunteer takes you out. We will keep you under lock and key except on rare occasions. Sarah, I would prefer to be dead than live a caged life like that. It is a fate worse than death." It breaks my heart to see the sloths trying to peer their heads out through their cages, or to climb around on the wire. Do you think that my comments are fair in this respect?

Andrew on

Sarah, apologies for calling you Daniella in my last post! :) It was a typo.

By the way, how are you enjoying Italy? I loved that country, started north in Cinque Terre (a MUST see if you haven't been there), then went to Corsica & Sardegna and all the main cities on the mainland. It is truly spectacular don't you agree?


blondesontour on

Hi Andrew,
Haha no worries, I love Italy. I work there quite a bit. Unfortunately I haven't been everywhere but will remember to check out Cinque terre next time! Im actually back in costa rica now which is why I had a recent sloth update!

No worries about the questions feel free to ask more! When I was there I got to experience two sets of volunteers, the first group I loved and they all loved being there. The second group arrived and it was a very different atmosphere. Not one single person mentioned to me that they we're unhappy or that they didn't like where they were, how things were etc. many of them offered up there own personal expertise to help at the sanctuary I.e one volunteer had vetenarian training. I cannot really comment on everyone's personal feelings but again none of them mentioned anything at the time. One girl Erin, left early. Judy said that's never happened before and she left all of the gifts for the sanctuary there. Which I find odd. I wasn't there when it happened though. From what I could see everyone seemed to enjoy themselves or why would they take tons of photos of them with sloths, or stay there, or not say anything? So I'm not sure but if they did have problems they certainly didn't do anything about it.

On your next point it's really difficult. Because I obviously do understand where you're coming from. However, I also think it would be unfair to put a defenceless sloth in the wild with no natural training on what to eat and so on. They would honestly eat anything in site. I caught one gnawing on stones one day. In an ideal world I'd have them in a huge enclosed forested area that they were protected in but could be monitored, but this is extremely difficult to do. It would break my heart to know they'd all been released and then most of them died. So until more research is done I currently agree with the sanctuarys policy although I obviously wish things could be different. Also the bradys are the only ones who stick they're arms and heads out of the wire. They love seeing what's going on and are more affectionate then the two finger.

Also In regards to the worms and mange, they currently have someone at the sanctuary working on sloth poo to try and find a medicine that works on them. Most normal treatments either don't work or kill sloths and unfortunately with an influx of wild sloths worms can spread easily. With the mange it's really bad for the sloths to be bathed because its terrible for the ph balance for their skin. They used to have a sprinkler system but it broke so now the sloths all have water bowls in with them to help dry skin at bay. When I was there in August most of the sloths had skin problems because it was so hot, when I was there in January maybe 5-10 had a problem anymore. So they honestly are doing stuff to sort any problem out.

Sarah x

Andrew on

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your prompt and courteous replies. You are an excellent ambassador for the position you espouse, and we will take the points on board.

I will now investigate the feedback from other volunteers based on their reviews posted, so that this is not simply a Daniella vs Sarah perspective. In performing my research I will politely disregard what the tourists say (since they only see the positive "showcase", not the reality behind the facade), so naturally their perspective is not relevant to this exercise. It is the feedback of the volunteers which interest me, since they see all the sloths in their actual conditions and understand better what the majority of the sloths must endure..

I will try to keep an open mind and see what the general consensus is on this point.

Thank you again,

blondesontour on

Hi Andrew,
I would just like to add that the bad reviews about the shape of the volunteer program are no longer relevant. I think it used to be a bit disorganised but it's not like that at all anymore. If you want to read more about what goes on my previous blogs at the sanctuary are on here, so you can see what you'd do every day and also in my latest trip as well. Let me know how you get on with the volunteer posts, I found I struggled to find any. If you are stuck I'm happy to put you in contact with some previous volunteers who I'm sure will be happy to talk to you too :)


Elsa on

Wow. I had intended on making a trip to Costa Rica to visit the sanctuary as well. Now I'm immensely torn. I was trying to get hotel info and Daniella's blog popped up on Google and I ended up here. I'm very confused as to whether or not I should visit at this point and am also concerned at the tripadvisor volunteering reviews. The reviews aren't just about organization (I think there was only 1 that I saw that mentioned that), they were about how money is demanded from volunteers as soon as they get there, how the staff don't do much to help them, how the volunteer job description doesn't match up with the actual work done. This really breaks my heart as I was so excited to visit the sanctuary. I don't think I can on a clear conscience now.

blondesontour on

Hi Elsa,
As I said to Andrew those reviews were from like 2010 and do not apply anymore. I was never, ever pressured to give money and I actually ended up paying about a week into my stay as I could only draw out certain amounts of money at a time. It was never demanded from me, obviously they would ideally like you to pay on arrival, you are affectively staying there and need to pay for food, board etc. most people pay on arrival out of politeness and courtesy but mine was delayed and I never felt like it was a problem. If you want to see what volunteers do please read my previous blogs or I can do a quick outline for you here. I loved the work we did at the sanctuary, you're working with or for the animals at all times although for about 10 minutes each day we took it in turns to do some light gardening ie cleaning up some leaves and one time me and a volunteer helped pour water and handed out fruit to people because they were really busy. The staff are wonderful and incredibly helpful, they are really nice and helped me out all the time I.e. when I needed washing done on a different day I just asked and Selma kindly did it for me. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Qasali on

Me and my fiance really love those sloths :) We always have danced with each other as if dancing with the sloth and laugh...lol :) (sorry if its little too much information :) but it goes to show how we both love sloths :)) We really wanted to visit the Sloth Sanctuary. Its not dissapointing but we see we get to have different views as well apart from the others on the caging, food and so on. I admit it is confusing. Not anything is perfect, they keep evolving to accuracy all the time. We wish Sloth Sanctuary will make a promotional video with the true picture that goes on in there. There could also be more reach via a documentary or featuring in a film and donations as we agree it is no Joke to run a sanctuary.

Andrew on

Dear Sarah,

I hope you are well.

May I ask you a query now that you are in Costa Rica? Would you be able to speak to Marcelo the vet and ask his honest opinion on whether more sloths are able to be released back in the wild? Daniella's blog claimed that Marcelo believes that many more sloths can be released, and therefore Daniella's view is that the sanctuary is essentially imprisoning the sloths, just like the zoos do.

I am talking here about the adult sloths who are not injured, not the sloths who arrived as babies and have lived their whole lives in the sanctuary.

In answering this question, there is no need for Marcel to certify that the sloth will have a 100% chance of survival, only that they will have a reasonably strong chance of survival. In this respect, we must acknowledge that there is a risk of death for all animals in the wild. The fact that gazelles are sometimes hunted by lions does not justify me going to Africa and imprisoning gazelles to isolate them from this risk, for example.

This would be helpful to know. I will be able to rest my mind if Marcelo believes that the caging is in the best interests of the sloths..

Many thanks as always!

blondesontour on

Hi Andrew,
I'm not actually at the sanctuary at the moment but I was with Marcelo the other day. Every single sloth that has come in as an adult and does not have injuries that will mean they won't survive in the wild I.e. had to have an arm amputated, ALWAYS go back into the wild. I spoke to Becky (the biologist) and Marcelo last week for an update on how things were at the sanctuary and two bradies that were there recovering when I was working there in January and duchess who has had a very long recovery since last year, are all in the process of being released again for example. They do re-release most of the sloths that come in to the sanctuary except those who are too young, as discussed, or too injured to go back into the wild. I hope this answers your question :)

Andrew on

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for this helpful response. I appreciate it.

Kind Regards,

Boris on

Hi, this is Boris from Germany.

First of all I want to say thank you to Sarah for this blog. I liked reading it after I read Daniella's blog.

Can I ask other volunteers who have visited to the sanctuary to come forward and post their thoughts on this blog? My question to you volunteers is: On a scale of 1 - 10, what was your opinion of the sanctuary (1 being just like a zoo, 10 being like a true sanctuary).

This will help me decide if I should visit & love the sanctuary, or hate & condemn it & help Daniella free the poor creatures by the night raid she is encouraging (or somewhere in the middle).

Thanks a million.

blondesontour on

Hi boris,
I think my opinion of the sanctuary is fairly obvious so I have emailed some people I worked with there to comment on this for you? Thanks for your comment :)

Missy on

Hi Boris,
I've been to the sanctuary twice, for two weeks each, and was there last time with Sarah. I have also been to several other wildlife sanctuaries around the world, that have varying levels of care and enrichment. I can attest that the sanctuary very much loves and cares well for the animals, and are planning to create a type of release enclosure on their land, since many of the sloths that came in when they were babies couldn't survive on their own and the amount of sloths at the sanctuary is growing to capacity. I did not have the same experience as Daniella, in fact I'm not sure why she has come out to vehemently slam the sanctuary. The sloths that can be released after medical treatment are put back in their home territory (I've actually been on a release!) However many live at the sanctuary because they couldn't survive in the wild. I am unsure if they are accepting any more volunteers--last time I was there they said they may close down the program, so you may want to inquire. It was a great experience, and obviously a place I was willing to go twice! If you'd like to read more about my experience, you can go to http://missysslothrescueexperience.blogspot.com/

Boris on

Dear Missy,

Thank you so much for your comments.

They were really interesting and helpful. I loved your blog too!!!!

I will confess that I burst out in laughter when you mentioned that a bradypus climbed onto your back for a ride and unfortunately had dipped his bum in his water bowl while taking a poo, so you were blessed with a nice wet spot where he was hanging like a "Brady Backpack"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL :)

Have a nice day ahead,

Boris on

Dear Missy & Sarah,

Can I ask you a question about Melaza, using her as a convenient example.

Do you think she would be happier in the wild, with the freedom to do things which wild sloths do like climb trees, roam freely, swim in rivers, create a family of her choosing and make baby Melazas etc.

Or do you think Melaza would prefer to be stuck in a cage like she is?

I'd be very grateful to hear your thoughts.


Missy on

Melaza is at the Sanctuary because she wouldn't survive in the wild (doesn't know much about predators, what plants are poisonous/dangerous, etc.) so likely she wouldn't be alive for very long if released. The animals that are there permanently are only there because they wouldn't be able to survive in the wild. I'm sure she'd appreciate being outside in her natural element, and hopefully that will be possible once they build their external enclosure on the island. But being released would guarantee a horrible fate for her.

Boris on

Thank you Missy for the clarification.

It is good to hear.

blondesontour on

Hi guys, sorry I'm only just catching up with the comments I've been at work with no Internet. I also agree with missy about Melaza. She is a very healthy and lovely sloth but she hasn't had any time in the wild except a few months as a baby so wouldn't do well. She might but from their past experiences the sloths they released didn't survive. Missy I still haven't read your blog! Need to get round to it. X

Karl on

Dear Missy,

I have also read your blog now. It was enjoyable to read for sure!! :)

May I ask you a question which I feel is an elephant in the room which no one seems willing to bring up?

It concerns the sex lives of the sloths at the Sanctuary. Does the Sanctuary allow the sloths to enjoy these simple pleasures, or does it prevent them from doing so by separating them? You mentioned in your blog that there is a Bradypus named Darla who continuously cries out for hot sex. Do you think it is fair to the sloths to deny them of the most ecstatic joy that it available to them?

I am sure that if someone caged me and denied me the ecstatic experiences of mind-blowing sex, I would prefer to take my chances in the wild and risk it.. In the human world, whole kingdoms have been won and lost over this matter.

On a related question, do you know if the 2-fingered sloths can mate with the 3-fingered ones? If not, the image comes to my mind of a Bradypus approaching a two-fingered sloth and saying "Hey, how man fingers you got? Only 2? Ugggghh, there is no bigger turnoff for me than 2 fingers!!!!!!!" LOL.

I hope you don't find my questions rude or impertinent. They are legitimate questions which I believe should be addressed when considering the quality of life which the Sanctuary offers to the sloths.

Thank you,

blondesontour on

Haha Karl,
I definitely found your question amusing/interesting! Sloths don't mate for pleasure but more, as for most animals, the need to reproduce. There are a lot of male/female couplings at the sanctuary and only a few sloths born there. They generally don't want that to happen though because it means another sloth that can't be released and makes numbers swell. However this has happened so infrequently that in general if a male a d female get along when they are babies they usually try and keep them together because despite the fact sloths are solitary creatures in the wild, they only come together to mate in fact, they actually really enjoy, I don't know, the company (?) of other sloths. Which is pretty interesting really. As far as I'm aware 2 & 3 fingered have never been known to mate. Although they are both 'sloths' they are actually very different animals in diet, their bodies etc.
Hope this answers your question!

Karl on

Thanks Sarah for your prompt response!

Just to clarify, when you said "they actually really enjoy, I don't know, the company of other sloths.", did you mean to say "they DON'T really enjoy the company of other sloths"? Also, does this comment apply both to the bradypus and the 2-fingered sloths also?

May I also ask you a final question? Regarding the 2-fingered sloths, would you say that Malaza is the exception who is an unusual and exceptional ambassador for the 2-fingered sloths (in terms of welcoming human hugs and affection), or would you say instead that the volunteers need to steer well clear of providing any affection to the 2-fingered sloths because they bite when approached. To take a practical example, if I become a volunteer for 3 weeks and I am assigned some 2-fingered sloths to look after, will I need to simply clean their cages and avoid any contact with them and keep my distance (except when they are sedated), or can I approach them as I would a Bradypus? Were you able to bond with any 2-fingered sloths whilst you were there?


blondesontour on

Hi Karl,
It was more the phrase I was using "the company of", I wasn't really sure what the correct way to say it would be. They get on really well with the sloths they live with, same for the bradys. Melaza is no way an exception, the two fingers generally are less affectionate than the 3, you are more at risk at getting bitten by them but I bonded with so many of them and actually prefer the two finger more, as much as I love the bradys I think the 2 finger have a lot more personality. If you want to see any more about them there are a lot of my blogs from my time there on this trip and also in my current one as I came back in January this year. You can see what goes on there every day etc :)

Hope this helps!

Mohamed on

Hello Sarah,

I happy to read your site.

I read your blog from Iraq. I came here after read Daniella's comments about dark side of sloth sanctuary.

My heart is touch by the work done at sloth sanctuary. I am happy to see the sloths.

I am homosexual man in Iraq and our life is under constant threat. Some of us get burnt to death for being gay. Here is a short clip where you can see us gays being burnt to death in Iraq due to religion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlnIJKES6kU).

I wish Daniella could see the dire situation of us gays in Iraq, then she would realize how lucky are the sloths in Costa Rica. I think Daniella is American lady who lives a wonderful life in paradise and doesn't realize that people like me are worried about being burnt to death for being who we are. Then she would realize that the situation of the sloths in the sanctuary is not so bad.

Thank you again for uploading your thoughts to this site and for clarify the matter for us.

Thank also to Missy for her blog.

Sending you my warm thoughts and best wish.
Mohamed Sultan

Sloth lover on

I was there for a week a few months ago, and can only comment on what I saw. There were dozens of healthy adult sloths kept in cages. There is no reason that they shouldn't be released into the wild. Sure a few might not make it, but I can guarantee that they would much prefer to live in their natural environment, than living in a small cage. The injured ones I can understand keeping, of course, but not the healthy ones.

And feeding them dog food, carrots and potatoes?!! That ain't right, period. If they released all sloths when they were healthy adults, then they can spend more time feeding the injured sloths the proper foods instead of stuff they would never eat in the wild. Plus they could make their cages bigger because they would have less sloths to care for.

I never saw Judy, her family, or anyone else for that matter spend any time with the sloths. Now that the volunteer program is ending, who is going to spend any quality time with these sloths? Certainly not the staff. It worries me that they are going to be "focusing on research" of sloths now. I hope that doesn't mean they're going to be poking and prodding them and doing "tests" on healthy sloths.

I came away from my experience with a great love for the sweet sloths, so I can understand why Judy wants to keep them all. But being a sloth hoarder isn't right. I know it all started with good intentions, but there's no reason to keep so many healthy animals in small cages. These are wild animals and should be living in the wild. I left there trying to tell myself it was a donation to the sloths, but the more I think about it, it's more a donation to Judy and her family. I hope the new tv series they're making exposes them more so people can see all the healthy sloths being kept in cages. Maybe someone with the right connections and a little money can do something about it so these healthy sloths can have a chance to live a normal life.

Andrew on

Dear Sloth Lover,

I am so sad to read your post. It saddens me to hear that there are adult sloths who are confined when they could be released so as to have a real chance of happiness living a natural life in the wild. Your comment struck me when you said that this is "sloth hoarding".

I am so torn because I know the sanctuary has the best of intentions (and limited funds), yet at the same time it seems clear that the sloths are terribly confined for the rest of their waking and sleeping lives.

I am more saddened by the fact that the volunteer program may (will?) end soon. Does anyone know the reason why the volunteer program is shutting down?


blondesontour on

Hello sloth lover and Andrew,
I feel this just keeps going round in circles. As I have stated many times before; 1. The food is the diet given to sloths worldwide living in captivity, they don't know what a natural sloth diet is which is why they only receive the leaves they do know - cecropia/almond. 2. Yes most of the baby sloths their that are now adults are healthy adults, because they were raised in the sanctuary. They used to release them but they died. They have no way of knowing what to eat; sloths take a long time to digest food so if they over indulge in things that are harmful to them they don't know until it's too late, they have absolutely no skills that would help them survive in the wild. 3. Ursula, Jeff and Judy work daily with the sloths. Judy is ridiculously busy looking after babies in the nursery in her room as well as doing all of the other jobs at the sanctuary she needs to do. Since her husband died she hasnt been able to spend as much time in the back with the adult sloths because she has to keep the sanctuary up and running. Don't forget you're not out the back all day. 4. As I have also said many times before they are currently doing a research project so they can start releasing the healthy adult sloths that are there, this is the kind of research they will be doing, diet, mating etc. 5. Andrew they're closing the program for this reason, theyre becoming an independent research centre and want to close it off to the public. It's in the best interests of the sloths, they're constantly handled and exposed to tons of new volunteers on a weekly basis. 6. I think it's very wrong to imply donations to to Judy and her family. As I've discussed in this blog the sanctuary takes a lot of money to run, every single donation and volunteers money for their stay goes straight back to the sloths. Finally, 7. I find it hard that people want the sloths to be wild animals but then also complain that we don't spend time with them or that people won't spend time with them i.e. when the volunteer program ends, like they are pets, sorry but that doesn't really make sense to me.

Again hope this helps.

Sloth lover on

the reason the volunteer program is ending, from what I was told and what I saw when I was there, is because they don't want just anybody volunteering there anymore because people like me and tons of others are speaking out about the conditions they are living in. That's the real reason, no matter what Sarah says.

You say all that stuff about diet like it's fact. Every animal has natural instincts and can and will figure things out on it's own. If it doesn't and it dies in the wild, well, that's called natural selection. Sloth populations are not in danger by any means, there's plenty of them out there. So keeping so many in captivity is just plain hoarding. It;s one thing to help it when it;s a baby and keep it for a while and nurse it to health, but to keep it FOREVER in a tiny cage?! I'm sorry. The sad thing is the sloth doesn't have a say in the matter, but if it could decide, I'm sure it would love to actually LIVE in the wild and climb trees and eat leaves and see what it can see. And if it means it only lives for a few years because it didn't learn everything it possibly could have from a mother, so be it. it still lived a lot longer than it would have if left for dead in the wild.

These sloths aren't let out of their cages ever anymore. They've put up signs stating to never take them out and walk around with them. So we had to hang out with them in the tiny cages, how boring for them! Your whole life confined to the equivalent of a small bedroom. I spent most of my days in the back with the sloths, I never saw Ursula or Judy back there. And Jeff only went back if he had a insiders tour group. Marcello barely looked at any of them, he'd wander around and flirt with a couple of the cute staff members, look at a sloth for a second, then go back inside his little building in the middle.

And in response to #7, you miss the point. These are sloths that are staying in captivity, so they should be given as much love and attention as they want. These sloths are so bored and have so much curiosity and love, that it's hard not to want to give them the attention they deserve. Now if they had plans to reintroduce them into the wild, well of course, then they should have no human contact whatsoever. But that;s not the case, so I choose to give them love.

Just like in most of the western world these days, Fear trumps Freedom. The poor sloths have no rights because of the fear they will die in the wild. Well give them a chance and let them be free.

Andrew on

To Sloth Lover,

Thank you for quick response. May I ask you a question? Are you able to confirm that the visitors who perform the short tour (ie. the "zoo" style visitors) only see the positive facade of the sloth sanctuary and do not see what goes on behind doors (a life of confinement in rows upon rows of cages with minimal attention)?

To Sarah,

Regarding the closure of the Sloth Sanctuary Volunteer Program, I remember watching an Animal Planet video in which Judy stated that the sanctuary would not be able to cope without the volunteer program.

May I ask how they are going to raise the funds to keep the sanctuary going? Has a zoology department of a university funded this research program?

You mentioned previously that the sanctuary is desperate for funds and is struggling to meet the demands. May I ask how they can they cope if they sever one of their income streams (not to mention the free labour)?

Thank you,

Sloth lover on

Hi Andrew,
The sloths are cages in two seperate areas, the area in the "front" is what people see when they go on the insiders tour. There are 6-8 large cages where they keep multiple sloths in each. Randy currently has his own cage, but the rest there are between 2 and 5 sloths in the large cages where they take people during the tours. In the back side of that area are smaller cages where another 20-30 sloths are kept. They can see them yes, but aren't generally brought back there. Now there is another side with all the 2 toed sloths, that is the "back" section. Nobody goes back there except the volunteers and staff, or I supposed if you paid enough, they'd take you back there. Back there are another 55-60 two toed sloths. I don't get the impression that they're trying to hide anything, but they're not exactly advertising the fact that they have so many healthy adult sloths living in small cages. When I say small, they're about 4 feet wide, 7 feet tall, and maybe 5 feet deep, with a few thick bamboo rods for them to climb on. They also climb on the chainlink fence that makes up the cages.

As for what they're going to do with money, I heard they got some kind of grant. Don't know how much or from where, but it must be significant if they're going to throw away a lot of the volunteer money. They also have a handful of rooms they are using as a hotel, so maybe they're going to focus more on that? I ran into a couple who were there and they were bored out of their mind because they didn;t have a car and the sanctuary didn;t offer them any food! They had to pay another $100/person to get an insiders tour and some lunch the next day!

blondesontour on

Andrew/sloth lover,
I'm just going to reply to this all in one message.

The 'real' reason for them ending The volunteer programme is not problems with volunteers but it's better for them to be able to financially support themselves separate from a volunteer program. Not to mention it is in the best interest of the sloths. They will have dedicated experts and staff working with the sloths not just people who are there for a few days, a few weeks etc. They are in partnership with the Dallas world aquarium, as you can see on their website.

The stuff on food is a FACT, backed up by cold, hard science. Thus why I have stated it as such. As I literally just said in my last post; sloths that have lived in captivity and have not lived with their mother for the year that the babies do when they are born means they do not know what to eat. Yes animals have a natural selection and instinct and most animals will learn by trial and error. As I just stated sloths take a long time to digest something and they could over indulge in something bad for them. Trust me they will literally eat anything. I found one eating concrete one day.

When they have released non wild sloths back into the wild they don't live years, they live a few months. Again this is why they're doing the research project so they can release them safely and with a better chance of survival.

The reason they stopped letting people take adult sloths for walks is that they noticed that it completely changed their behaviour. It was therefore in the best interest of the sloths to not be handled constantly. They are not trying to change their natural behaviour. They are still wild animals and as I've said, they want to start releasing them ASAP. This means getting tons of human contact, especially taking them out and about is bad for them in the long run. You can't have it both ways unfortunately.

And I'm going to reiterate this again because I apparently haven't said it enough; they are planning on releasing the sloths but want to do it as safely as possible and to make sure the sloths have the best chance of survival in the wild. To do this they are currently doing a research project to find out the natural diet of sloths so they can introduce it properly to them. Sloths eat leaves in a rotation which is taught by their mothers in the year they stay with them. This is very hard to replicate in captivity so they are aiming for some kind of middle ground so they can release the sloths and help them survive.

Andrew I think I answered your question above.

I have already agreed both in this blog and the comments section that the enclosures could be larger but space and funds dictate this. They are currently organising a release area on an island in the river that goes through the sanctuary.

Yes there is a hotel but there is no kitchen. There are plenty of public transport options in cahuita and taxis (though a bit harder to find). It's technically on a road in the jungle. If people haven't got a car there's plenty of options but it states on their website they only provide breakfast.

Think that was everything?

wow. on

bravo to both of you for expressing/defending your opinion. when it comes to animal rehabilitation facilities, there will ALWAYS be a sizeable chunk of the population who just can't stomach what's going on. i think it is important for potential visitors to read reviews from their perspective as well so that they can steer clear of the place if they do not agree with it's practices.

maybe some of you should come down from the clouds and be realistic here? it's a nonprofit animal rehabilitation center. in costa rica. run by completely normal, average people. caring for sloths. what do you expect? a 5-star resort? jurassic park for sloths? cashmere blankets embroidered with each sloth's initials? it's a nice idea that every animal rehabilitation center could have millions of dollars at their disposal to give the animals the absolute highest quality care, food, and habitat, but it's a pipe dream. that ain't the way the world works, sweethearts! besides, if this place hadn't been started, there would be a lot of dead sloths out there, and if tourists were coming across dead sloths on their little hikes, there would be way more outrage on the internet for a sloth sanctuary just like this one than this place is currently getting for it's "practices". pick your battles, people.

furthermore, to everyone who is complaining about this place - do you really think that whining away on the comment section of some person's blog is really making ANY difference? seriously. if you don't want to donate money for fear that the owners may put it towards their 4x4 truck or whatever, HERE'S AN IDEA. organize one of the changes you'd like to see. reach out to the owner, get an official estimate on how much it would cost to build one of those fancy 5-star cages you all want so bad, and then RAISE THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY SPECIFICALLY FOR THAT CAGE. put your money where your mouth is. that's how you get things done & changes made. it sure is a lot more work than typing up your comments from your iphones, but if you don't care enough to put in the effort, then you really must have SOMETHING better to do with your time than commenting on a blog.

side note - spent the last 10 mins reading these comments and laughing out loud. what a strange collection of very weird people. it's almost front page reddit material.

blondesontour on

Dear Wow,

Particularly love your Jurassic Park for Sloths comment! I thought your idea to raise money for a certain issue is a good one so if people did want to do that I added at the end of the blog recently that Becky, the biologist at the sanctuary, is raising funds for a release program. If people want to donate specifically to her to help their release they can go here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-our-sloths

Thanks for your comments, it was nice not to have to keep writing the same thing again as a reply! And you make an excellent arguement to be honest!

blondesontour on

Hi Mohamed,
Thanks for your comment, I'm sure Missy is also pleased you read her blog. I can only express my sympathies at your hardships. Although we do not have equality totally here I am sure it is nothing compared to yours.

AnimalLover on

I was touched by the sloth sanctuary from the many positive reviews i found on tripadvisor...enough that I decided to spend my upcoming December 2013 honeymoon in Costa Rica (not on the Caribbean side unfortunately) and start planning my volunteer experience there for 2014. I have been an animal lover all my life and have fallen in love with sloths. When i found out about the sloth sanctuary i did tons of research on it (market research is one of my responsibilities at work so I feel that i'm pretty qualified to give a good overall summary of what i've found).

First of all, user Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I found so many of these comments to be pretentious and clearly opinionated, not based on fact. The truth is that only the volunteers there will be able to provide legitimate arguments, so right off the bat any person who simply had a tour there shouldn't be throwing their 2 cents in.

Second, i'll admit, i was concerned when I read Daniella's post. However after reading Sarah's, filled with FACTS from credible sources (something Daniella's was clearly lacking), it is clear that Daniella simply had a bad experience and formed her own opinions that are now, sadly, affecting other people's judgment and actions. Maybe she wasn't educated enough while she was there...maybe she didn't listen, or maybe she just has an unrealistic idea of how animals can be cared for in captivity, or how much money and manpower and organization is needed to do so.

Is it fair for animals to be kept in zoos? They will never experience a real life in the wild and many of them live in cages and enclosures. But they are usually healthy and happy, and most of the time they aren't able to live in the wild. In the US ferrets are a common pet. We keep them in smallish cages and feed them processed pellets with nutrients. We occasionally take them out but for the most part they spend their time in a cage...which they are fine with! Ferrets started out as a wild animal that we domesticated...just like dogs and cats. Some people feed their dogs and cats cheap food that have terrible by-products in them, but nobody seems to care about that.

In an optimal world, all animals would be free and healthy enough to live in the wild, but if that was the case then there wouldn't be zoos and reserves and sanctuaries for them...and they are clearly needed because what we're doing to our world is destroying their homes, food sources and lives. If we want our animal species to continue, we need to help keep them alive. Without the sloth sanctuary, these injured and baby sloths would just die in the wild and their numbers would decrease. They are able to give them a fairly healthy and happy life, if not the most luxurious life, and do their best to release the ones that they believe will survive. The wild tiger population is dwindling and if you found an injured, dying tiger, would you not save it? If you knew it could no longer live in the wild would you not take care of it if you could and give it what life you could? Or would you just let it die?

My big problem with this whole thing is that uneducated and opinionated people are affecting the thoughts and actions of others who should forget about both Daniella's AND Sarah's comments and just go see for themselves. They should research sloths and learn about their typical behaviors and such, and much of what has been said would be refuted. I guarantee if someone "exposed" the behind-the-scenes of zoos and other wildlife sanctuaries, they'd be very surprised at what they found, but it doesn't mean it's wrong or not what should be done.

Frankly, until a credible source (i.e. a zoologist, non-profit specialist etc.) comes out and reveals that the sloth sanctuary isn't doing what it should be, I won't perpetuate or take to heart the negative comments that have been made.

P.S. did anyone notice that Daniella mentioned "ALL the other volunteers except Sarah felt the same as she did?" but Missy came forward with her positive experience and no one else, not even the one who left early (Erin?) came forward to offer support for her.

AnimalLover on

P.S. There are companies that investigate non-profits, global animal welfare groups, and many others whose responsibilities and goals are to expose things like Daniella's accusations. Tons of supposed "elephant reserves" in Asia have been targeted for mistreatment of the animals they take care of. I would assume that with all the tourist and volunteer visits the Sloth Sanctuary gets, and with all the reviews, both negative and positive, that one of them would have revealed hard evidence of mistreatment and inadequacy by now. If there is any, i have not seen it and i'm sure all of us would welcome it being brought to our attention here, should any exist.

blondesontour on

Hi animal lover!
Thanks for your comments, it's nice to have a bit of support in the comments section! I think you made some great points. I'll see if I can get Rebecca Cliffe, the zoologist/biologist who is doing all of the release work at the sanctuary to write a short comment on her opinions here. Anyway thanks for the great comments again, I appreciate it!

reeni on

I enjoyed reading the concise and informative replies you have made to all the questions. I was devastated when I first read the blog by Danielle but was unsure as to the truth of the matter as there was no supporting evidence. I was glad to read further in to the matter and discovered your post, however tedious it was to read repetitive questions on the same topic. Thank you for taking the time and effort to provide answers and information

blondesontour on

Hi Reeni,
Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you found this one and it changed your mind. Yes it feels like I'm answering the same questions a lot!

Maddie on

I read both articles as well, and I'm glad you posted this because I was really disappointed when I read the other one, but I am glad you cleared everything up. Also I was wondering how you became a volunteer and how old you have to be to become one? I'm really interested in becoming one, so if you could let me know it would be greatly appreciated.

blondesontour on

Hi Maddie,
I don't think there is really a certain age that you need to be, I know that they have had families with children there before. Unfortunately they're closing the volunteer program to become a research centre so you won't be able to volunteer :( you can still go and visit the sloths though and see them for yourself! Costa Rica is a great country to visit too!

LP on

Thank you for putting my mind at ease!

blondesontour on

No worries. Let me know if you have any further questions :)

Vince on

How does the sloth sanctuary acquire there sloths? I understand that often when a baby sloth less than 6 months of age falls off its mother the mother often does not retrieve it from the ground but after 6 months of age sloths(at least 3 of the 6 species, including B. variegatus, are often less dependent on there mothers and either the mother or the small sloth disperses within a year. So of the baby sloths that are collected from the ground and brought in are they less than 6 months old? If they have already dispersed or are not very dependent on there mother then couldn't they potentially be released back in to the wild? Of the 6 extant species of sloth 4 are listed as species of least concern according to IUNC Red List and 1 species l Bradypus torquatus is listed as vulnerable and Bradypus pygmaeus is listed as critically endangered. Since the species they have in Costa Rica are not currently a high concern in conservation is it right for the conservancy to take in baby sloths that people bring them? Predator prey relationship is a natural occurrence and if the age of the baby sloth is not know then there is no way to determine if after the sloth is taken in if I can be possibly released in the future.
I was just curious on the ethics of the sloth sanctuary. Not sure if you have heard of there attempt to export sloths from Panama this past December. The sloth sanctuary and the Dallas aquarium people place around 10 pygmy sloths (Bradypus pygmaeus) in to creates to export. This is the critical endangered species that is endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama. Its a small island off the cost of Panama about 2 miles long and this species is a specialist and is though to only eat red mangrove tree leaves. From the literature That I have read there is thought to be less than 100 individuals of the species left and the sloth conservancy tried to take at least 1/10 of the overall populations. Not much is known about this species only being classified as a distinct species in 2001 but taking a large portion of the population is not, in my opinion, a good way to conserve the species. The panama government luckily stopped the export before they left the country but a few of the sloths died, possibly from stress, after they were transported back to their island.
I know there is not tons of scientific literature about sloths but if they are putting radio collars on the individuals, that they are able to release, are they at least taking the animal back to the location where they captured it?
Just one more question that should be kinda easy to answer; at the sloth sanctuary do the volunteers or the workers allow the algae to grow on there fur or do the clean them so they are algae free? I have read some papers that suggest that the algae on a baby sloth comes from its mother when it clings to her for the first few months. The algae is important to the sloths which i'm sure you know... I know this blog is from a couple years ago, but if you still check it i would love to hear your views, Thanks!

blondesontour on

Hi Vince, I hope you are well. Apologies that I'm only just responding to this I've actually only just seen it!
I do completely agree about your circle of life mentality but the Sloth Sanctuary was kind of an accidental creation. Some children bought Buttercup to Judy and she cared for her and then more & more & more came. As an animal lover I think it would be impossible to turn away an injured or abandoned animal to the mercy of nature. I would say the majority of sloths that come in are orphaned/injured babies who are 99% of the time well under 3 months old. They would not have learned the basic instinct of survival from their mother and actually a lot of them are a few weeks old and would certainly die if left alone. I am aware of the Panama incident. They actually received permits from the Panamanian government to export the animals as they wanted to start a breeding incentive to bolster the population and i'm sure to look at a new species. Unfortunately what the press didn't say was that there is actually a resort and hotel being built on that island which is going to wipe out most of their habitat and probably kill that species off for good (also not great to another rare bat species on the island). No one seems to upset about that though as it's going to bring in money and jobs, so it was slightly ironic that everyone got so upset about an approved move that was meant to benefit that species in the long run. But then it wouldn't have made such a good story right! Anyway let me know if you have anymore questions :) and sorry for the late reply again!

blondesontour on

Sorry i've just seen some of the other questions:

1. they said that some of the sloths died but actually they have no one tracking the sloths on the island so no one is really sure how they came up with this fact
2. Sloths grow algae due to their environment and hair that basically sucks water up, the sloths at the sanctuary don't have algae because they're not being rained on all day. They wouldn't clean off something that was natural
3. in general when a sloth is released they try to do it near where it was found unless a) that area is unsafe - which it was in most cases b) that area is hundreds of miles away. Either way sloths aren't territorial and only come together to mate or when they have young so actually it wouldn't be an issue if they weren't released where they were found

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