2023 Review: The Year of Sloth Science | Tales From the Jungle

2023 Review: The Year of Sloth Science | Tales From the Jungle

The past 12 months have indeed been a rollercoaster – a mix of hard work, intense emotions, and unforeseen challenges. But, with resilience and determination, we’ve tackled each obstacle head-on! Now, without further ado, let’s dive into a recap of this year’s highlights and celebrate our achievements:


The Urban Sloth Project

This year, we started analyzing parts of the data collected for the Urban Sloth Project over the past years at the Swansea Lab for Animal Movement at Swansea University. Each DailyDiary backpack has collected around 27 million data points, so analyzing each data set will take some time!


Ecology Coordinator and USP researcher Amelia Symeou analyzing data at Swansea University.

Early in the year, we observed Mango’s transition into adulthood. After 30 months of careful monitoring, overcoming challenges like stolen collars, and gathering many heartwarming stories, we made the decision in June to release Mango back into the wild. You can delve into Mango’s full journey here. While we bid farewell to Pumpkin, we were excited to welcome new members – Noah, Gandalf, and Dumbledore – to our monitored sloth family.


Mango after her release! She’s not wearing any tracking device but has a lot of her own moths!

In July, Heather Ewart, a key collaborator on the research, presented the Urban Sloth Project at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Rwanda. This prestigious event is a cornerstone for conservation professionals worldwide and was an excellent platform to share our insights into the lives of sloths in urban environments.


Heather made her exposition about the USP.

GPS collars, primary forest, and collaborations!

For the first time, we could use GPS collars! We had to wait for the technology to be light enough for sloths, and we fitted them on three wild sloths (George, Misty, and Selvina) at the Biological Station and Research Facility La Selva, a protected area, to start studying the lives of sloths in their natural, undisturbed forest habitats.


We’ve also forged exciting collaborations with colleagues from Brown University, focusing on studies related to sloth pathogens, parasites, and dietary habits, and also working with Dr. Max Chavarria from Universidad de Costa Rica, delving into the unique ecosystem of the green algae and fungi found in sloth fur.


Mady (Brown University), Dayber, José, Ezequiel (Brown University), and Diego at La Selva


The Great Sloth Census

This year, we embarked on the pioneering research project to study sloth populations, featuring Keysha, the first-ever sloth scat detection dog! Keysha’s training is an ongoing process, but she has already begun her work, tracking down sloth droppings in the South Caribbean. Her skills were also put to use at La Selva Biological Station, where she helped locate sloths.


Tamara, our General Director, is transporting Keysha at La Selva.


To enhance our research capabilities, we’ve added a drone equipped with a thermal camera. This technology isn’t just a complement to Keysha’s incredible scent-tracking abilities; it’s a valuable tool for our current and future conservation projects. We captured our first thermal image of a sloth in the canopy in June, marking a significant advancement in our study methods.


This is one of the first images we captured using our drone!


Published Paper!

In May, we published our research about sloth activity and behavior in an open-access peer-reviewed scientific journal (because we firmly believe scientific knowledge must be accessible to everybody!)

Sloth Reserve

This year marked a significant milestone for us – we completed the legal process to help acquire a 20-hectare parcel of land, with the goal of making it a protected area! This achievement is just the beginning: as soon as possible, we want to start the construction of our headquarters and make this reserve our address and research site of wild sloths!

Connecting the South Caribbean with Trees and Bridges

This year, we planted 1717 sloth-friendly trees on private properties and gardens, contributing to a grand total of 7619 trees since the inception of the Connected Gardens Project. We also completed a significant task of planting 1,000 trees, sponsored by JetSloth and Gravity Forms, in various places in the South Caribbean.



We successfully installed 46 Sloth Crossing canopy bridges and conducted maintenance on 19 others. A highlight was the installation of our first double rope bridge. We also collaborated with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the company responsible for constructing the new sewage system in Puerto Viejo: we installed three Sloth Crossing bridges within the sewage plant property. This project is crucial for both the local community and the ecosystem.


Supporting our community in any way we can

While we maintained our educational programs for children in Costa Rica and beyond, we also began supporting local sports organizations focused on children and young people. In areas like ours, with high crime rates and inequality, it’s crucial to foster safe and inspiring environments for our youth. We’ve assisted these groups by providing various materials, including nets and shirts.


Our partnership with Puerto Viejo Dogs remains strong, helping them spay and neuter 120 rescued dogs, contributing significantly to animal welfare in our community!


Hanging out for Sloths – a successful event!

Our first in-person event in the US was a resounding success, and we raised over $22,000 to support our sloth conservation projects! Over 100 guests enjoyed an afternoon filled with live music, captivating sloth tales, and insightful conservation discussions led by our founder, Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, alongside the award-winning wildlife photographer and SloCo trustee, Suzi Eszterhas.


Dr, Rebecca Cliffe and trustee Suzi Eszterhas


A heartfelt thank you to Beaumont Farms in Petaluma, CA, and to all our volunteers, attendees, sponsors, and donors who played a pivotal role in making this event memorable!


Photography and Conservation

The photograph “Sloth Dilemma,” by Suzi Eszterhas, achieved finalist status at the renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) awards.


sloth dilemma dog facing sloth
“Sloth Dilemma” by Suzi Eszterhas


This year’s WPY ceremony featured a special video emphasizing the role of Suzi’s work in sloth conservation. Amongst nearly 50,000 submissions from 95 countries, “Sloth Dilemma” was distinguished, showcasing the influential nature of powerful wildlife photography.


Sloths Take Over Prime Time!

It’s always exciting when popular television programs with a vast audience dedicate time to talk about sloths and their conservation. This year, two of America’s leading TV shows, the Today Show and CBS 60 Minutes, featured our sloth conservation efforts in their prime-time segments!

In August, Today Show’s Stephanie Gosk joined our founder and executive director, Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo for an insightful conversation about sloth conservation.



Then in September, our efforts were highlighted on CBS’s 60 Minutes. The renowned zoologist Lucy Cooke, along with the CBS crew, visited us to explore our Urban Sloth Project and meet the adorable Mango.



What went wrong

This year, like any other, had its share of challenges. Early on, we faced a heartrending situation with Luna, one of our key sloths in the Urban Sloth Project. Luna suffered a broken arm, and despite a successful surgery and initial signs of recovery, we lost her.


The outpouring of love and support for Luna from our global community was incredibly moving. Luna’s contribution to our project was significant, and you can learn more about her story and legacy.

In October, Keysha, our dedicated sloth scat detection dog, faced her own health scare with a heartworm diagnosis. Heartworms, transmitted by mosquitoes, are as serious as they sound. Even with up-to-date vaccinations and preventive treatments, Keysha contracted the disease.


scat dog sloth fest 2022 keysha
Keysha and Tamara. Photo Mira Meijer


Fortunately, it was caught early, preventing more severe complications. She underwent treatment for a couple of months, during which she had to take a break from her usual activities and rest at home. We are happy to report that Keysha is now healed and gradually resuming her work!


2024, here we come!

Reflecting on 2023’s triumphs and trials, we’re energized and ready for the new year: our work to help sloths and their habitats is far from over. Looking ahead to 2024, we have set our sights on exciting goals:

  • Finishing the first stage of the Great Sloth Census by surveying 24 sections (around 250,000 m3).
  • Keep expanding our connected Gardens and Sloth Crossing Project to cover more areas to the northwards.
  • Publish the first results of The Urban Sloth Project.
  • Execute our new and improved education program.

With these objectives in mind, we’re eager to dive into 2024, continuing our vital work for sloths and their environments!


And, of course, There’s You!

We are immensely grateful and incredibly proud of the remarkable community we’ve nurtured together over the years. Your involvement is more than just support; it’s a shared passion for sloths, wildlife, and the beauty of our planet.



Our journey is unique among conservation non-profits as we don’t rely on government or large-fund support. It’s the heart-driven contributions from our community that fuel our initiatives. Your support is the lifeblood of our work, enabling us to be the hands that work, the feet that walk the jungles, and the eyes that watch over and protect sloths.

Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey of sloth conservation. Your donations, social media shares, conversations with friends and family, and your love for sloths and nature are invaluable. As the year is ending, we invite you to make a last impact to continue helping sloths.

Make a Gift to Sloths!

Thank you for making 2023 another remarkable year. We eagerly look forward to a promising and exciting 2024 with you by our side!


-Cecilia Pamich

Communications & Outreach

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