Hanging with the sloths in Costa Rica

If you’re wild for wildlife, you should consider going to Costa Rica. It’s home to over half a million different animal species making it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

A sloth in the jungle
A sloth – he’s upside down but he’s absolutely fine.

With so many wild animals it would be hard to pick a favourite, but my vote goes to the most iconic Costa Rican critter, the sloth! Home to two different sloth species, Costa Rica is considered the best place in the Americas to “hang out” with these laid back animals.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth
Waiting for something – photo: Charlie Jackson

If you want to spot the Hoffman’s Two-toed Sloth you’ll need to take a night hike, because during the day it’s the Brown-throated Sloth which is most active – although when I say active, don’t expect to see them racing through the jungle. Sloths are notoriously lazy, clocking up an average daily distance of around only 30 metres – that’s about 40 human steps (which is probably the same distance I manage on a Sunday…)

A sloth up a tree in Costa Rica
Sloths; not winning many races – photo: gailhampshire

There is a reason why sloths are considered the slowest animals in the world – every part of them has evolved to conserve as much energy as possible. Rather than eat more calories, sloths have evolved to do less. Even digesting a meal can take up to a month, which means they only have to poop once a week – so they’ve got to make every movement count!

A sloth eating a leaf
There’s lot’s to be happy about when you’re a sloth

So how does an animal so slow protect itself from predators? Well, as it happens, partly by being so slow. Moving through the treetops at an incredible 0.003 miles per hour, sloths are so slow that they are hard for predators to spot. It’s also helpful that their fur is host to a range of algae, fungi, moths and mites creating its own ecosystem which helps them to blend in with the surrounding foliage.

A three-toed sloth in a tree
A sloth. Count the toes. – photo: Carlos Luna

Now in the time that it’s taken for you to read this post, there’s a sloth somewhere in Costa Rica that has travelled about 5cm – so next time you’re stuck in traffic, spare a thought for the world’s slowest animal who makes a commute in rush hour traffic seem as speedy as the Grand Prix!

Sloth in a hurry – video: gailhampshire

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About Ben Amps

Ben Amps

A couple of years ago I was suffering from heartbreak in the midst of a cold Canadian winter. I quit my job, packed my bag and jumped into my trusty Dodge Caravan, heading south for warmer climates.

I spent the next 8 weeks living in my car, starting in minus 30 degree weather until I reached the plus 30 degree warmth of the Mexican border.

Glaciers, deserts, avalanches, canyons, bears, auroras, wolves, volcanos and whales, I saw it all! It was the most incredible journey of my life and safe to say when I returned to Calgary 20,000 kilometres later, my broken heart had fully healed!

Ben works in our claims department

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