How to volunteer with sloths

Volunteers taking a selfie

Are you planning a gap year abroad and want to do something meaningful as well as fun?

Do you want to take your kids on a family holiday but want them to experience the joy that comes in helping others while they travel?

Are you a sloth lover who wants to help make the world a nicer place for sloths who have fallen upon hard times?

Or do you want first hand experience working with a scientific team and contributing to world leading sloth research?

Volunteering with sloths might just be the perfect item to add to your travel itinerary! But how do you do it?

Let’s check out your options.

Sloth Assistant Team Member

Organisation: The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

Suits: Individual, adult, researcher

Length: One month

Cost: $400 plus food and travel costs.

The Sloth Institute accepts two Sloth Assistance Team Members a month to help the technicians and wildlife director in fieldwork activities.

You need to be active and passionate about sloth conservation for this role. You’ll be working up to 8 hours a day in not always very comfortable conditions. The Sloth Institute is not a sanctuary, it is a research institution that believes that sloths are better off with limited contact with humans – so don’t apply for this role expecting to be cuddling sloths all day. You will, however, get experience working with a scientific research team, and will be involved in conducting world-first sloth research.

Find out more about the position here, including how to apply.

Sloth Institute Costa Rica needs interns

Sloth Technician

Organisation: The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

Suits: Individual, adult, researcher

Length: Three months

Cost: You pay for travel/flights and immigration expenses. Basic accommodation and meals provided.

As a Sloth Technician you’ll be working long days and nights, 6 days a week with little time off. You need to be extremely dedicated to sloth conservation and willing to be uncomfortable for the benefit of scientific research.

You need to be fit and healthy, and also have field research experience as well as behavioral research experience. You’ll also need to have studied or worked in zoology, environmental education, wildlife ecology or a related field.

This sounds like a serious gig for a seriously dedicated scientific researcher. Find out more here.

Wildlife Volunteer

Organisation: NATUWA

Suits: Individual, adult, traveller

Length: negotiable

Cost: $40 per day

volunteers maintaining an enclosure at natuwa

NATUWA is serious about minimizing the impact that humans have on animals. Their goal is to spread awareness that people should not remove animals from their habitats. Volunteers can’t interfere with the animal’s natural behaviors, so if sloth cuddles are on your bucket list, this is not the right program for you.

A NATUWA Wildlife Volunteer’s role is to help with feeding the animals, cleaning enclosures, helping with rehabilitation and release of animals, planting trees, giving tours of the sanctuary and more. It won’t just be sloths you are working with either. NATUWA cares for macaws, tortoises, monkeys, wild cats among others.

In return for your work at the sanctuary you will be provided with dorm room accommodation and meals, as well as WiFi. You are responsible for all costs in getting there, plus $40 a day.

Check out NATUWA‘s website and see if it might be a good fit for you!

Family Volunteer Adventure

Organisation: DiscoverCorps

Suits: Families

Length: 8 days/ 7 nights

Cost: $2995 per adult, $2695 per child

excited young girl with sloth hanging from branch

Experience the wonders of Costa Rica with your children, and give back to the community while you do it.

On this week long holiday you’ll learn about Costa Rican culture with cooking classes, dance performances and school visits. You’ll experience Arenal Volcano, hot springs, Montverde cloud forest and beautiful beach towns. Manuel Antonio National Park is not forgotten, of course. You’ll spend two mornings volunteering – helping out with a reforestation project and volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary.

You can request a detailed itinerary here.

Rescue Center Volunteer

Organisation: Rescue Center Costa Rica

Suits: Individuals, adults, travellers

Length: varies

Cost: $50 per day includes meals and accommodation

As a volunteer at the Rescue Center Costa Rica you will be preparing food for over 100 animals daily: sloths, monkeys, squirrels, birds, kinkajous and olingo and more. You’ll help clean and maintain their enclosures and even help build new ones. You will also help by making toys for the animals, and participating in community education projects.

You’ll get three meals a day and I really appreciate the fact that they list their menus online and are vegan, vegetarian and gluten free friendly. Dietary restrictions can be a big concern for many of us when travelling to other countries, and it looks like Rescue Center Costa Rica is very accommodating. I also really like that they have a volunteer enrichment program. Each week volunteers can participate in activities like yoga, quiz nights, night walks and dance nights – for free!

Jess Travels has written about her experience volunteering here, you might like to have a read. And of course check out Rescue Center Costa Rica for more information.

sloth monkey and parrot with caption make a difference

Rescue Center Day Visit Volunteer

Organisation: Rescue Center Costa Rica

Suits: Families

Length: 1 day

Cost: $20 per person, or $30 including a meal. Children under 2 are free.

If you’re travelling with your kids this might be a great option. Tour the Rescue Center for an hour and then hang around for the rest of the day to help work with their team of volunteers. There’s no additional charge for this and you’ll receive three meals in return for your help.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue and Conservation Volunteer

Organisation: GoEco

Suits: Adults, travellers, individuals

Lenght: At least two weeks, three is the recommended minimum stay. Maximum 12 weeks.

Cost: £780

woman holding a baby sloth

This program allows you to work with other volunteers from around the world to help protect indigenous Costa Rican wildlife such as sloths, jaguars and parrots. They emphasize ethical volunteering and wildlife interactions. If you’re really hoping for baby sloth cuddles, this might be your chance. Of course, human interaction is best kept to a minimum, but some of their baby sloths need extra tender loving care – perhaps you can be the one to provide it.

The first week of the program is a language course, then you move to the sanctuary. You’ll stay in home-stay or dorm-style accommodation depending on which sanctuary you are placed at. All meals included whilst at the sanctuary, you’ll need to find your own lunch while you’re taking part in the first week’s language program.

Find out more about the program and application process here.

Are you planning a volunteering stint with sloths? We’d love to hear about it!

Have you volunteered with sloths? It would be awesome if you could share your experience (and photos) in the comments, it would be really helpful for other sloth loving volunteers-to-be.

You can also check out Hanging with Sloths Pinterest board Volunteer with Sloths for more volunteering options.

 


Sloth Conservation: When is a sanctuary not a sanctuary?

It’s always horrible to find out that a charity or cause that you have supported is not really what it says it is. What if the money and time that you’ve spent in supporting a sloth sanctuary was actually causing sloths more harm than good?

It’s an icky subject, but I think it’s important to spread awareness that some people aren’t in it for the right reasons. Sloths are popular, and that popularity might attract the wrong type of people. People who are in it to make money, not to help our beloved sloths.

In my research online I’ve come across a few disturbing articles. I can’t tell you whether these are 100% accurate or not, but I want to at least make sure people are aware, so they can then make their own educated choices.

Please help me to compile this list. If you see something that should be added, please let me know. My aim is not to smear anyone of course, but to make sure that it is the sanctuaries, charities and institutes that are really, truly helping sloths that are the ones that get our support.

Sloths seized from Oregon based sloth sanctuary

Sloth seized from Oregon based sloth sanctuary

Claims that the owner of Oregon sloth sanctuary sells sloths

Claims that oregon sloth sanctuary sells sloths

Investigation into Oregon Sloth Sanctuary: While there’s nothing illegal about owning and selling exotic animals for private collections, it’s not the same as conservation work.

Oregonlive.com report on Oregon sloth sanctuary

Claims famous Sloth Sanctuary is a collection of sick and injured animals behind the scenes

ex workers claim sloth sanctuary is a collection of sick and injured animals
Sloth Sanctuary Costa Rica responds to claims made against it

Behind the scenes at Costa Rica sloth sanctuary

Have you visited one of these sanctuaries? What were your thoughts?

Adopt a Sloth: Top 6 Sponsor a Sloth programs

Our sloth friends are in trouble. Threatened by the illegal pet trade, the tourism selfie trade and the destruction of their habitats, sloths need our help.

There are a number of things we can do to help save sloths (I’ve written about some of them here) and one of them is to symbolically adopt or foster a sloth from a reputable charity.

Checkout my roundup of Adopt a Sloth programs and let me know which one you choose!

Kids Saving the Rainforest

Kids Saving the Rainforest logo

I love that this organisation was started by two 9 year old girls. 20 years on, Kids Saving the Rainforest now runs a variety of successful projects including a Rescue Center, Wildlife Sanctuary, Monkey-Bridges, Volunteer Program, Wildlife Sanctuary Tours and reforestation programs.

Sponsoring a sloth with Kids Saving the Rainforest will help them to give their rescued sloths a better life, and a better chance of being released. The cages that their sloths are rehabilitated in are designed for short term use, for when sloths have been hit by cars or electrocuted for example. They don’t suit the long term rehabilitation required for orphaned baby sloths who are brought to the center. They need to be able to grow  and learn in an environment that simulates their natural one. Your sponsorship will help KSTR to update these cages, and to purchase and maintain equipment for tracking and monitoring their released sloths.

For a $60 donation or more, KSTR will send you this little fellow to say thanks.

Kids Saving the Rainforest sponsor a sloth plushie

Toucan Rescue Ranch

As the name suggests, the Toucan Rescue Ranch began as a sanctuary for toucans in 2004. But in 2007, when a baby sloth named Millie arrived at the ranch, it transformed into a multi-species wildlife rescue facility.

TRR rehabilitates and releases wildlife. They work closely with the government of Costa Rica and specialize in toucans, sloths, and owls but there are many more species that they take care of too.

TRR has a couple of different options for adopting a sloth.

A $100 adoption package will cover the costs of the care of your adopted species for approximately three months.

Toucan Rescue Ranch Adopt a Sloth

Included in your adoption package are the following things:

  • Certificate of Adoption – for you to print and fill out!
  • Bookmarks featuring your chosen species
  • Information Sheet on your chosen species
  • Desktop Backgrounds
  • Toucan Rescue Ranch Screensaver

However if you’d like to get to know your adoptee a bit better, then you might consider TRR’s Celebrity Adoption package.

TRR Celebrity Sloth Adoption package

For $500, or  $42 a month, you will be providing food and care for your selected ‘celebrity’ sloth for one whole year. You will receive a personalized adoption certificate and will be given a contact at TRR who you can email for photos and updates all year long. PLUS you get to Skype with your sloth!

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

The Sloth Institute is not a sanctuary. It specializes in research and education and works to monitor the behavior, health and welfare of released, wild and captive sloths. TSI does not make sloths available to be seen by the public as they believe it is in their best interest to have as little human contact as possible.

Sloth Institute Adopt a Sloth program

TSI has a number of adoption packages to choose from. Like TRR, you can skype with your adoptee sloth if you choose their premium adoption package. You may not receive as many goodies as with some of the other packages available in this roundup, but I like to think that means more money is going towards the conservation of sloths.

 


World Wildlife Fund

WWF is a very well recognized animal charity. Their mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth. They have been around for over 50 years, and are working in over 100 countries to conserve our planet.

WWF have a number of adopt a sloth options. You can choose from a $25 adoption package up to a $250 adoption package.

Adopt a Sloth with World Wildlife Fund

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Symbolically adopt a Southern Two Toed Sloth and help Friends of the National Zoo to help save this species.

Choose from a $75 adoption package, or a $1000 package! Perhaps you could hold a fundraiser, or go without presents at your next big birthday and ask for donations instead.

Adopt a Sloth with Smithsonian Zoo

The Sloth Conservation Foundation

Founded in 2016 by sloth researcher Dr Rebecca Cliff, The Sloth Conservation Foundation is a registered non-profit that is committed to saving wild sloths through research and conservation initiatives.

Dr Cliff has worked with sloths in the wild for over 10 years and has published a number of scientific papers. She has seen the problems faced by wild sloths and is determined to achieve lasting solutions.

Adopt a Sloth with Sloth Conservation Foundation

You can choose either a virtual adoption package, or a physical one. If you select virtual, you will receive everything by email – and can choose to pay monthly. If you select physical, you will receive everything in the mail, a great gift idea!

If you’d like to check out more sloth adoption programs, follow Hanging With Sloths on Pinterest.

Have you adopted a sloth? Share your adoption certificates with us in the comments!

Perhaps adoption is not for you? Or maybe you want to do even more? Check out this list of other ways you can help to save the sloths.


Sloth conservation: 5 ways you can help save the sloths

Of all our beloved sloth species, the Pygmy Three Toed Sloth is in the most danger. It is critically endangered – in 2012 only 79 were found. This is of course a seriously upsetting situation and I know you’re here to find out what you can do about it.

But before you read on, it’s important to know that ALL six of the species of sloths are threatened in some way by the destruction of their habitat. Over the last 40 years, 750,000 square kilometres of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed. This is due to cattle ranching, logging, commercial agriculture, colonisation, dams and mining. Sloths aren’t the only animals having their homes destroyed, of course. The destruction of the Amazon rainforests has devastating consequences for many species of plants and animals.

Deforestation in Brazil

Another increasingly serious threat is the issue of illegal trafficking. Sloths have become pretty popular over the last few years because they’re adorable and all – but this means that they are being stolen from their homes in increasing numbers to be sold on the black market as pets. Baby sloths are the most at risk. They are violently separated from their mothers, and so no longer have breast milk to feed on. They are kept in overcrowded environments, are treated roughly and often have their claws cut to stop them from scratching the poachers – but this stops them being able to hang from trees, which is what their bodies were designed to do. Unfortunately, a single baby sloth can earn a family living in poverty more money than their average weekly, or even monthly, wage. For this reason, sloths can be found being offered on the side of roads and at markets.

Warning: this video of a sloth being stolen to sell on the black market may be upsetting to watch.

 

So what can we do to help our little mates? I’ve put together a list of ideas here – please comment below if you have any more ideas to share. Every little bit helps.

Sponsor a sloth

There are many organisations around the world who work to help sloths. I’ve put together a list of all the ways you can sponsor, or ‘adopt’ a sloth. Check it out here.

TRR Celebrity Sloth Adoption package

Donate items to The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

The Sloth Institute puts out requests for items to be donated to help them with their sloth research and rehabilitation. Just purchase the items from Amazon and have them sent straight to the Institute. Maybe you could organize a fundraiser, or perhaps for your next birthday, in lieu of gifts, you could ask for donations to this very worthy cause.

Sloth Institute Wish List

Volunteer

Volunteering is a rewarding experience in so many ways. Just imagine travelling to and living in a country like Costa Rica or Borneo, experiencing the culture, the food and the environment all whilst gaining skills and helping our beloved sloths. It sounds perfect for a gap year.

Check out this roundup of the best volunteering with sloth opportunities. There’s something to suit everyone: families, gap year travelers and serious sloth researchers.

Also, check out my Volunteer with Sloths board on Pinterest.

Be aware – not all sanctuaries are equal

Sadly, in my research on sloths I’ve come across some disturbing accounts of places that purport to be helping the sloths, but are actually doing the opposite. 

ex workers claim sloth sanctuary is a collection of sick and injured animals

I have read some unsettling reports about the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, and also about an Oregon based sloth sanctuary. I have put together a list of these articles here. I encourage you all to do your research before visiting or supporting any charities. Please let me know if you are aware of any other reports that should be added to the list.

Say no to sloth selfies

I think, as a society, we are becoming much more aware of the problems with animal tourism. We are starting to realise that it’s not so ok to ride an elephant, and it’s pretty uncool to have your photo taken with a drugged tiger. But have a look around pinterest or instagram for a while and you’ll see that sloth selfies are a thing. They’re just so adorable, those smiles – it’s a dream come true to hug a sloth right?

Sadly the sloths don’t feel the same way about us humans.

According to World Animal Protection:

The Amazon rainforest is famous for its diverse wildlife. And the number of tourists who want to take selfies with its fascinating animals is rising fast. 

Many people offering  wildlife selfies in the Amazon search treetops for sloths to steal. These typically calm, gentle animals are snatched from their natural habitats, forced to live in noisy, chaotic environments, and repeatedly passed around from tourist to tourist.  

Join me and 250,000 other people in taking the Wildlife Selfie Code. Pledge to only take photos of animal when they’re in their natural environment, free to roam and at a safe distance.Thank you for signing the Wildlife Selfie Code

Take the Wildlife Selfie Code here.

Can you think of any other ways to help the sloths? Let me know in the comments below.

Suggested Reading

Amazon Destruction, Mongabay