They are everywhere. The slowest mammal in existence has found its way into countless memes and social media postings (see @splurt). Youtube contains weeks of endearing videos of them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba7rRfKIHxU). There is even a kids’ movie coming out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY73vFGhSVk) that features them. For assorted reasons, people are displaying their Sloth interest by publicizing them at an exponentially increasing rate. My time in Costa Rica has only made me more aware of this phenomenon leaving me to ask how these unhurried creatures got so popular.
In Costa Rica, there are Sloth sanctuaries, baby Sloth petting zoos, and other places you are bound to see them. I even stayed at a Sloth-themed hostel two weeks ago (pictured). Costa Rica is cutting edge when it comes to Sloths.
As background, Sloths possess the facilities of a formidable predator. With razor sharp claws (two or three toes), their appearance suggests they are not to be tussled with. Despite these substantial claws, they are not fast enough to use them. They are reeeeeeeaaaaaalllly, reeeeeeaaaaaalllllly, reeeeeeeaaaaaaalllllly, reeeeeaaaaaalllllly sllllllllllllllooooooowwwwwww-wwwwwww. Algae literally grows on their bodies. If hurrying to avoid danger, Sloths may travel at an alarmingly gradual speed 3-ft. per minute. Although they share a name with one of the 7 deadly sins, they are not lazy. Here’s why.
They eat rainforest leaves containing numerous toxins, which are taken through a ridiculously inefficient, but functional digestion process lasting two weeks. Their 3-stomached digestive tracts can only handle a little at a time, as they break down the leaf toxins with bacteria contained in their organs. Consequently, they can only store small amounts of food at a time from which to derive energy. Sloths are naturally aware of this, so the goal of their existence is to expend as little energy as possible for as long as possible. In doing so, they only come down from their chosen trees at the end of their digestion cycles (every 2 weeks).
You can tell I am as intrigued by Sloths as the social media world, which begs the question of “Why?”. What about them caught everyone’s eyes and some people’s hearts. According to the Gospel, I mean Internet, the Slothworld experienced its Gladwellian Tipping Point when Kristen Bell had a Sloth meltdown on the Ellen Degeneres show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5jw3T3Jy70).
Their harmless, welcoming demeanor should also be credited for sustaining their popularity. The related, but contrasting, Honey Badger’s fifteen minutes of fame ended as soon as Tyrann Matthieu’s college tenure did. Sloths, however, have staying power. Why? I contend that it can be credited to the fact that humans do not fear them. If we feel anything for them, we may feel compelled to protect them as they have little known defense mechanisms other than being hard to see. As well, their way of not getting worked up about anything is a trait that our culture appears to admire. With all of the budding yoga studios, meditation programs, and the like, Sloths naturally act like we want to at times. Further, most people I know prefer being around an unpanicked person over a stress-ball.
I care enough to write this post, which should show that I am comfortably seated on the Sloth bandwagon. Not to finish on a low note, but I have not seen one yet. Last weekend I ventured through the beachfront trail at Manuel Antonio National Park (pictured—no Sloth).
I am still looking and preparing myself for the first sighting during which I hope to hold it together better than Kristen Bell.