Meat Out Day: Can the sloths’ diet save the planet?

Meat Out Day: Can the sloths’ diet save the planet?

‘Meat out day’ encourages you to think about your meat consumption. Sloths have evolved over millions of years eating a purely leaf-based diet. Nowadays many people are opting to switch to more plant-based diets, but apart from the obvious ethical reasons, why are people choosing to go meat-free? 

 

eating leaves meat out

1. Going Meat Out for the environmental impacts

Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimating that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. The climate-altering carbon emissions associated with a single gram of protein from beef are at least 7.5 times higher than those associated with a gram of protein from plant sources.

 

meat out sloths
Image: Canva

 

Despite this scary statistic, meat consumption has almost tripled in the last few decades which has resulted in an explosion of livestock numbers, which in turn has a huge environmental impact. Intensive meat and dairy production is a major driver of deforestation globally. 

With livestock covering 45% of the earth’s total land, there is no question that we are chasing wildlife out of their natural habitats with our unsustainable eating practices – and this includes our beloved sloths.

2. Eating less meat to protect sloth habitats

There is no denying that animal agriculture is one of the biggest causes of deforestation worldwide. The rainforests of Central and South America are a hot spot for this growing economy, where commercial agriculture is the main cause of deforestation, (according to a new FAO report, The State of the World’s Forests 2016) with acres of rainforest being burnt down every day to make way for animal agriculture – livestock and animal feed.

 

meat out
Image by NickyPe/Pixabay

 

This rapid growth in livestock farming has made Latin America the largest exporter of beef and poultry in the world. This level of rainforest destruction is increasing annually and poses a direct threat to sloths and the rainforst that they need for survival.

3. Reduce the water crisis

We are on the brink of a water crisis. According to the United Nations, 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. UNESCO Institute for Water Education states that production of a meat-based diet typically consumes twice the amount of water as compared to a plant-based diet. 

On average it takes between 15,000 and 20,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef, which works out to approximately 3,000 liters of water to produce one 200g beef burger the equivalent of 30 five-minute showers.

 

water desert
Freepik

4. Sustaining the human population

Animal agriculture is a really inefficient way to produce enough food for everyone on the planet. According to the United Nations, the world population is set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100.For every 100 calories of crops fed to animals, we get 40 calories in the form of milk, 12 calories of chicken, and just 3 calories of beef. Instead, that grain could be used to feed people directly and would help ensure everyone has enough food. 

 

5. Health reasons (including preventing the next pandemic)

Apart from the lighter environmental footprint, many people are moving towards plant-based eating for health benefits. With evidence linking high red meat consumption to cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes; and whole-food, plant-based eating being seen to prevent, halt, or even reverse chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

Wet markets are places where people can buy a variety of live and wild animals for consumption. Scientists are currently investigating the origin of the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and although they can’t confirm that the origin of the virus was the market in Wuhan  (there are publications suggesting the virus circulation in various countries earlier than the first case in Wuhan, although these require confirmation), it was probably the amplifying event that unchained the pandemic. Reducing the amount of meat we eat and banning the consumption of wild animals can help prevent future pandemic outbreaks.

 

wet market meat out

Eat a salad and help sloths!

Reducing your consumption of meat and animal products can directly help to protect sloths – by combating deforestation, climate change, pollution, and water scarcity. But don’t panic – we aren’t suggesting that everyone should adopt a vegan diet tomorrow! We simply need to develop a sense of “meat consciousness” and reduce the levels of animal products in our diets. Perhaps try to start with one meat-free day each week and see how it goes? Every little counts!

Why not take a tip from the sloths and ‘leaf’ it out. 

sloth salad
Try this delicious salad of leaves, avocado, cacao nibs, nuts, edible flowers, and more!

-Ashley Raine

Pura Wildlife Initiative

SloCo Collaborator

 

Giving Tuesday with the sloths!

Giving Tuesday with the sloths!

Giving Tuesday is finally here and the festive season is just around the corner (doesn’t it feel like 2020 has somehow been both the fastest and the slowest year ever?). We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting us throughout this difficult time.

Despite the challenges faced in 2020, we have managed to continue running, growing and expanding all of our sloth conservation programs – and also supporting the local community here in Costa Rica!

A year to give back

Earlier this year we celebrated #GivingTuesdayNow – a global day of giving as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. We took this opportunity to provide emergency assistance to local families in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica to ensure they have access to essential resources. 

By helping local communities and prioritizing their needs during difficult times, we are able to build trust and utilize indigenous knowledge, which in turn has a positive influence on our conservation outcomes. Protecting sloths means protecting people!

 

giving tuesday

This year we want to highlight the people who have helped us to create a better world for sloths!

Doing science with the community

We believe that engaging local communities in wildlife conservation efforts are critical for the success of projects. Not only are these people the ones that depend on the local environment, but due to their proximity and unrivaled knowledge of wildlife, they are also well placed to participate in conservation efforts.

 

From tree-cutter to tree-connecter

This is Adolfo Gimenez, a.k.a. “Gallo”, our tree climber and Sloth Crossing installer! Gallo used to work as a tree surgeon – trimming and cutting down trees, but now he spends his days working with Team Sloth to reconnect the rainforest with artificial wildlife bridges!

A story of hardship and resilience

Although protecting sloths may seem like a narrow focus, conservation involves the whole community, often in unexpected ways. In the video below, Diego, our forest nursery manager, tells us his story during this complicated year.

 

Together we have managed to achieve remarkable things for sloths in 2020!

While this year continues to present us with unforeseen challenges, here in Costa Rica we are more focused than ever on our mission to safeguard a future for sloths. Our shared compassion and determination are giving us the strength and motivation to battle on through these difficult times.  

This is an important day for non-profit organizations everywhere, and we wanted to personally take this opportunity to let you know how much your support means to us.

We couldn’t do any of this without your kindness and generosity, so thank you for helping us to make 2020 a truly wonderful year for sloth conservation! Join us on Team Sloth and we will double these achievements (and more!) in 2021!

 

giving tuesday sloths

 

 

8 Perfect Gifts For People Who Love Sloths

Looking for the perfect gift for the sloth lover in your life?

Look no further for sloth gift ideas – we have you covered! Our selection of sloth-themed Gifts that Give Back are available for international delivery and with proceeds going to support our sloth conservation efforts – it’s a double win.

 

1. Adopt-A-Sloth (from $25 / £20)

sloth gift

We are offering ‘VIRTUAL‘ and ‘PHYSICAL‘ sloth adoption packages – perfect as a gift!

In exchange for a donation, we will send you a full personalised adoption goodie-bag either via email (virtual) or in the mail (physical)! Choose to adopt one of our 7 available sloths today and you will receive:

  • A personalised adoption certificate
  • Full biography / history profile for your chosen sloth
  • A photo print of your adopted sloth
  • A copy of our best-selling photography book: Sloths, Life in the Slow Lane (physical adoption packages only)

ADOPT A SLOTH GIFTSS

Click here to choose your sloth now!

“The adoption package arrived today. Thank you SO much, my daughter is going to love it! The quality far exceeds my expectations and the book is just beautiful. Perfect for bedtime reading!” -Claire Johnson. UK

“My wife absolutely loved her sloth adoption! The book is incredibly informative, and the photos are so beautiful. Thanks again for your time and efforts in helping provide this wonderful gift!” -Darren Martin, Florida

“The adoption package is great, better than I expected! We looked into many “adoption” options for our sloth-obsessed niece and, as an animal behaviorist myself, I was so pleased to see that we would be supporting such wonderful conservation efforts with your organisation.” -Anne Farrell, Australia 

 

2. SLOTHS 2021 wall calendar ($14.99 / £10.99)

sloth calendar 2021

Receiver of the Amazon Choice Award for ‘best sloth calendar’ for the fourth year running!

Channel your inner sloth and ease into 2021 with the ultimate sloth calendar!

Each month features spectacular photographs of sloths paired with exclusive “behind the scenes” captions. Five different species of sloth are showcased, including swimming pygmy sloths and the maned sloths of Brazil!

The imagery is accompanied by fun sloth facts, written by world sloth expert and SloCo founder Dr. Rebecca Cliffe. Each month also includes a wide open grid with plenty of space to jot down all of those special dates and anniversaries, and it is complemented by the inclusion of a 12 month yearly planner. This 12” x 12” inspiring calendar is guaranteed to brighten your day!

sloth calendar 2021

Click here to buy on Amazon (US)

Click here to buy on Amazon (Europe)

Click here for international delivery

“I knew this was going to be adorable, but I didn’t expect being unable to suppress a big smile each time I flipped to a new page of this gorgeously photographed calendar. These are the best sloth photos I’ve ever come across. Every one captures some new aspect of these sweet sloths, evoking emotion in me, my husband, and son. What a wonderful gift!”

 

3. SLOTHS: Life in the Slow Lane book ($25 / £20)

 

sloth book gift

This stunning coffee-table style book takes readers on an immersive journey through the jungles of South America to discover the secret lives of sloths! The story is illustrated through spectacular imagery capturing some of the most intimate and rarely seen moments, while the narrative provides fascinating insights into the previously unknown habits of these unusual animals!

Click here to buy on Amazon (US)

Click here to buy on Amazon (Europe)

Click here for international delivery

best sloth book

If you love sloths you need this book! The photos are amazing and it’s packed full of interesting information, even as a sloth lover I learned loads of new facts!”

GORGEOUS and unusual coffee table book. Great gift for friends, family members, travelers, wildlife enthusiasts, students, and of course – sloth lovers!”

 

4. Sponsor a Sloth Crossing ($200 / £150)

 

This donation will buy the raw materials needed to construct a full single-rope canopy bridge to help sloths travel safely across roads and between forest fragments in urban areas.

If you sponsor a Sloth Crossing then we will install a personalized wooden plaque next to the bridge engraved with a name of your choice (this would make a fantastic gift for any sloth lover)! With your bridge sponsorship, we will email an information pack as well as photos and the GPS location of the finished bridge and plaque after installation. We will also notify you when wildlife start using your sponsored bridge!

sloth gift

Click here to Sponsor a Sloth Crossing 

“I’m not sure there is another example of a conservation effort with such instant gratification! My background is wildlife biology, environmental law/policy, and animal welfare. In my 20+ years working in those fields, I have never seen such a simple, yet effective way to immediately mitigate habitat loss. Kudos to all involved!” -Michelle Land, New York

 

5. ‘Hang in There’ Canvas Sloth Tote Bag ($17 /£13)

sloth tote bag gift

 

Get rid of all the plastic and show off your love for sloths with this spacious natural canvas tote bag designed exclusively to benefit sloth conservation!

Click here to order your tote bag 

 

6. Sponsor sloth-friendly trees

sloth gifts

By planting sloth-friendly trees through our reforestation program in Costa Rica, you can provide safe habitat for sloths, protect biodiversity and help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s a triple win!

You can make a custom donation to plant a particular number of trees, and we will choose tree species that are favoured by wild sloths for you! We will then plant them in key conservation areas where habitat loss is threatening the survival of sloths.  If you sponsor some trees as a gift, we can send a gift certificate, information packet and photos of the trees on request (just send us an email after your purchase)!

Click here to plant some trees

 

7. Protect 20 square meters of primary rainforest for sloths ($50 / £38)

sloth gifts

Habitat loss from the destruction of trees is the greatest threat to the survival of sloths. 100% of your donation will go towards purchasing and protecting threatened primary rainforest habitat in the South Caribbean region (Limón) of Costa Rica where sloth populations are suffering. If this is a gift, we can send a gift certificate and information packet on request (just send us an email after your purchase)!

Click here to protect the primary rainforest 

8. Sloth Activity Booklet (FREE!)

sloth book children

We have launched a range of sloth activity booklets which use fun facts, activities and puzzles to help children learn all about sloths and wildlife conservation. It is perfect for use with school groups, or just as a way to keep your child entertained for hours! We currently offer two downloadable PDF versions of the booklet: one for preschool children and one for ages 8-10. The booklets are available in both English and Spanish.

Click here to download the booklet!

Celebrating International Sloth Day!

Celebrating International Sloth Day!

Taking a lazy day to stay in your PJs seems like a fitting way to celebrate the world’s slowest moving mammal. However, International Sloth Day (October 20th) is more than an excuse to take it easy,  it is a day to recognize an important member of tropical ecosystems.

three-fingered three-toed sloth hanging smiling

Why celebrate sloths?

Sloths play an important role in tropical forest ecosystems. Scientists estimate in a healthy tropical forest, sloths should make up a significant percentage of all the mammals living in the forest (in terms of biomass). In other words, sloths are meant to be common.

Like the herbivores of the savannah, sloths are the grazers of tropical ecosystems, playing an important role in the cycling of resources throughout the forest. Having successfully survived on Planet Earth for almost 64 million years they form an important part of the food chain for ocelots, jaguars and harpy eagles.

three-fingered three-toed sloth eating leaves
Pale-throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus) eats a cecropia leaf, a type of tree that forms a significant part of the sloth’s diet/Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Protecting sloths and the habitat in which they live ultimately benefits a whole host of other species, from poison dart frogs to Great Green Macaws. Not all species, such as velvet worms, receive the same kind of attention and love that sloths receive. Conserving sloths leads to the protection of these lesser known species and the preservation of the beautifully complex ecosystems they are a part of.

Sloths remind us to slow down

In addition to keeping our forests healthy, sloths inspire us to slow down. They are a valuable antidote to fast-paced digital world we live in. Like the classic story of the tortoise versus the hare, sloths are living examples that there are many ways to be “successful” in this world.

Because of their laid-back lifestyle, they have become an emblem of the “pura vida” lifestyle in Costa Rica. They are also a symbol of the tourism industry in Costa Rica, since they embody the spirit of vacation.

sloths sleeping in trees two-fingered two-toed three-fingered three-toed
Sloths have earned the undeserved reputation of being the “laziest” animals in the animal kingdom. They sleep an average of only 8-10 hours a day – the same as humans!/Photos: Suzi Eszterhas

Sloths are in trouble

Sloths are perfectly designed for a quiet, solitary life in the canopy of the rainforest. However, their rainforest home becomes more fragmented and degraded with each passing day.

In the South Caribbean of Costa Rica (where we are based) we get daily notifications of sloths getting stranded in unlikely places, from busy roads to restaurants. It is clear indicator of the pressure we are putting on them and their forest homes.

three-fingered three-toed sloth crawling on ground
Crossing on the ground is a difficult and dangerous process for sloths./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Celebrating sloth day with Team Sloth

The good news is that you don’t have to get out of your PJ’s to celebrate sloth day. This year we will be offering a variety of virtual events that you can tune into from your sofa! From Slow Flow Sloth Yoga to a live Q&A session, we hope that sloths bring you some tranquility and inspiration during this trying year. Remember to take a breath, take a sloth nap, the world will look a bit better after some rest.

baby three-fingered three-toed sloth snuggling mother
Did you know that a group of sloths is called a “snuggle“?/Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

 

-Katra Laidlaw

The HANG IN THERE Challenge

Let’s be honest – 2020 is turning out to be an extra-ordinary year for all of the wrong reasons. It has been mentally and financially tough for individuals and organizations everywhere. Now, more than ever before, it feels like we are all just ‘hanging in there’ until life can get back to normal.

In response to the hard-times, we are excited to launch the Hang In There Challenge as a way to have some fun, spread positivity and highlight the sloth’s surprising superpowers – all while hopefully raising some funds to support our sloth conservation efforts!

 

How long can you ‘hang’ like a sloth for?

Nothing complicated – just holding onto a bar with your hands and dangling.  Technically this straightforward maneuver is called the ‘dead hang‘, and you might be surprised by how difficult it is! Very few people are able to hang on for longer than 1 minute, and the dead hang world record is only 13 minutes 52 seconds!

‘Hanging on’ is the sloth’s secret weapon. You might think that the only thing a sloth can do for a prolonged period is sleep, but you would be mistaken (although sloths are also the undisputed nap champions of the world).

 

 

A sloth can easily dangle underneath a tree branch all day long. In fact, they often fall asleep like this! We have even watched a sloth hang from just one arm – with the elbow at a 90 degree angle – for over 15 minutes! These incredible feats of strength and stamina would make any human gymnast jealous.

Do you think you are stronger than a sloth? Are you up for the challenge? Read on to find out how you can take part and be in with a chance of winning the ultimate sloth-lovers goodie bag!

 

Take The ‘Hang In There’ Challenge:

hang in there challenge

1. Find an appropriate horizontal overhead ‘bar’ to dangle from.

This could be a pull-up bar, a climbing frame, a tree branch… get creative! Just make sure that whatever you are holding onto is secure and can support your body weight.

2. Set up your camera, or ask a friend to film you.

3. Grip the ‘bar’ with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) and take your feet off the floor.

Keep your arms straight. Don’t adjust your grip, let go with one hand or change position.

4. Time how long you can hang in there for!

5. Upload your effort to social media (Facebook, Instagram or TikTok)

  • Make sure that you tag us in your post or story – @slothconservation
  • Use the hashtag #HangInThereChallenge
  • Nominate 3 friends to also take the challenge by tagging them in your post
Photo by Dinielle De Veyra from Pexels
Photo by Dinielle De Veyra from Pexels

The Prizes!

There are 2 awards available:

  1. The Hang In There Challenge Champion – awarded to the person who ‘hangs in there’ the longest!

  2. The Most Creative Hanger – awarded to the person who’s entry makes us smile the most!

Winners will be awarded with the ultimate sloth-lovers goodie bag! This includes a beautiful sloth book, our 2021 sloth calendar, a ‘hang in there’ tote bag, Hang In There Champion Certificate and some extra mystery surprises.

adopt a sloth

To be in with a chance of winning, you need to make a donation to support our work and upload your donation receipt to social media along with your video! The donation amount is totally up to you – we will monitor all entries and winners will be announced on the 31st October via our social media channels!

hang in there challenge

Disclaimer: please be careful when participating in this challenge (after all, sloths are very careful creatures)! While there are lots of positive health benefits to this exercise (improves strength, decompresses the spine and stretches out the upper body), you must be responsible for your own safety. Make sure you are hanging from a secure ‘bar’ that can support your body weight, and work your way up in duration to prevent injury. If you are pregnant or have back / shoulder problems, consult your doctor or a personal trainer for advice. The Sloth Conservation Foundation is not responsible for any injuries incurred while participating in this challenge!

 

Sloth-friendly tourism: How to help sloths while traveling

Sloth-friendly tourism: How to help sloths while traveling

When it comes to tourism, sloths often get the short end of the stick. Sloths are at the top of the list of animals sought after for wildlife selfies. Due to their “celebrity status” they are often crowded by adoring fans and in extreme cases used as photo props for tourists.

The good news is, there are ways to travel that can actually benefit local wildlife, including sloths! But how can you tell which businesses and hotels have actually made meaningful changes to help wildlife and which ones only appear to be “green”?

three-toed sloth with baby eating leaves
Brown-throated three-fingered sloth (Bradypus variegatus) and her less than one week old infant./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Introducing the Sloth Friendly Network

Thankfully, travelers coming to the South Caribbean of Costa Rica will no longer have to guess which businesses are friendly to wildlife, because we have been developing a program to address this exact issue!

The Sloth Friendly Network (SFN) is an accreditation program to help concerned travelers make informed choices by highlighting local businesses that have been doing their upmost to help wildlife in the area.

The central aim of the program is to endorse sloth friendly tourism and responsible business ownership by engaging travelers and visitors as partners in conservation.

The South Caribbean is known for its wild and beautiful beaches. It is not uncommon to be basking in the warm Caribbean Sea while you watch a sloth starting to stir after its afternoon nap, munching on beach almond trees.

Perhaps you hear a group of howler monkeys calling in the distance. These unique creatures sharing these wonderful and wild spaces with us, make the South Caribbean a truly enchanting place to be. A place whose biodiversity draws millions of tourists from all over the world each year.

two-toed sloth sleeping in beach almond tree
A two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) dozing in a beach almond tree./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Developing a sloth-friendly tourism

One of our primary concerns in developing the program was whether tourists prefer organizations that support wildlife conservation. TripAdvisor conducted a study which revealed that 62% of the respondents consider the local environment when choosing a hotel, restaurant, and means of transportation and 69 percent of respondents plan to make even more eco-friendly choices on their next trip.

However, would they be willing to pay slightly more to an organization that protects wildlife? While there are some surveys that have shown that people support environmentally friendly practices such as plastic reduction, water conservation, and carbon neutral commitments, there isn’t much research on people’s opinions on wildlife conservation.

In order to determine the importance of wildlife conservation to tourists, we created a survey with two simple questions:

1. When traveling, would you be more willing to book with a hotel/tour guide that supports conservation of local wildlife over other companies?

2. Would you be willing to spend more for a hotel/tour guide that supports conservation?

A third question on demographics was added to see if any meaningful patterns emerged: “What is your age range?”

Note: There was no significant connection between age and the respondent’s answer to either of the first two questions.

This survey indicates that there is a strong preference to support organizations that help protect local wildlife. Additionally, the responses indicate that the majority of people are willing to pay more.

The results of this survey are meaningful for those in the tourism industry as it suggests that by supporting the conservation of local wildlife, they could have a competitive advantage over other companies in the area.

Reaching out to local businesses

Armed with this new knowledge, we were able to make the case to local businesses that tourists truly care about wildlife conservation and are even willing to pay more to reduce the impact of their travel.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to start from scratch because we have had the privilege of working with many local hotels and businesses through our Connected Gardens program.

These organizations have supported our sloth conservation efforts by reconnecting habitat on their properties through Sloth Crossings and reforesting and helping to educate their clients by sharing our educational materials.

faith glamping
A sample of our educational materials shared to businesses certified by the Sloth Friendly Network such as Faith Glamping./Photo: Cecilia Pamich

Our first members of the Sloth Friendly Network!

We have had the honor of working with these wonderful individuals over the past couple of years and we are proud to officially recognize them as part of the Sloth Friendly Network. As our network grows and we continue to accredit local businesses and organizations in the area, we hope that this will be a useful resource for travelers who interested in wildlife-friendly tourism.

These photos are some of the highlights from our recent visits to drop off education materials (and the certificates of course!) to these Platinum members of the Sloth Friendly Network. Thank you so much for supporting sloth conservation and making it possible to coexist with wildlife in a mutually beneficial way!

Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort

 

sloth-friendly tourism faith glamping costa rica
Faith Glamping Dome Costa Rica

 

sloth-friendly tourism Costa Rica Annanci Village
Annanci Village – Boutique Vacation & Retreat Accomodation

 

sloth-friendly tourism Costa Rica
Colina Secreta – Glamping and Villas

 

Stay tuned as we add more businesses! And if you ever have the chance to visit the South Caribbean of Costa Rica be sure to check out these awesome places!

 

 

-Jackie Lopez and Katra Laidlaw

The dog days (are never over): Why caring for dogs helps sloths

The dog days (are never over): Why caring for dogs helps sloths

Happy International Dog day everyone! While there seems to be a day for quite literally everything right now, a day dedicated to celebrating dogs is something that is pretty important to many of us! And it makes sense that the Day of the Dog is at the end of summer.

dogs day

Have you heard of the “dog days of summer“? Well Dog Day is right in the middle of them! To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” began when the dog star, Sirius, could be seen rising just before the sun came up.”Dog days” are traditionally the hot, sultry days of summer which are known for heat, thunderstorms, lethargy, mad dogs and bad luck. Sounds about right!

dogs with toy sloth on head
Photo credit: Two Traveling Dogs

But how on earth do dogs relate to sloths?

Well, more than you’d think. Now this isn’t going to be an article all about how bad dogs are (we are all big dog lovers over here at Team Sloth) but the fact remains that dogs are the second leading cause of death for sloths in the wild. In fact, they have contributed to the extinction of 11 wild species and kill thousands of animals every year, all over the world.

orphan baby sloths
Many orphaned sloths arrive at rescue centers because their mothers were killed during dog attacks./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Stray dogs are often the cause of these sloth attacks, with over a million stray dogs wandering the streets of Costa Rica.

Leash laws vary by country but even where it is illegal to have a dog off the leash (like in Costa Rica for example), many people allow their animals to roam, unsupervised, with no repercussions. Unfortunately, the animals that suffer the repercussions are wild animals, like sloths.

Ultimately this is not the dog’s fault, as they naturally have predator instincts. Certain breeds in particular have a very high prey drive. However, it is up to the owner to properly train and supervise their canine companions to prevent the injury and ultimate extinction of local wildlife species.

How can we prevent dogs from attacking wildlife?

In the South Caribbean we have implemented a program to help control stray dog populations with our “Oh My Dog” initiative!

In this project we sponsor the spaying and neutering of stray dogs (or for families that cannot afford it) as well as promote the responsible ownership of domestic animals. Other ways that we help to protect sloths from dogs include:

  • Building canopy bridges to prevent the sloths from having to come to the ground.
  • Planting trees to bridge gaps in the canopy.
  • Promoting adopting or rescuing dogs over buying a dog.
three fingered sloth using canopy rope bridge
Sloth crossing canopy bridges help prevent dog attacks by providing a safe way for wildlife, like sloths, to navigate properties without having to come to the ground./Photo: Foforo (Yorjes Salazar Elizondo)

These are measures that we have already implemented in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica, but they are important worldwide.

5 tips for dog owners that care about wildlife

Aside from reducing stray dog populations, all dog owners can help protect wildlife by training their dog! We have compiled some top tips for you to help prevent your pet from causing wild animal deaths, wherever you may be.

BONUS: Training is a great bonding opportunity for you and your pets!

Tip 1: Supervise your pet

Always make sure that you are watching your animal (especially at night) and check the yard before letting them out. If that is not possible, or your pet needs to be outside, use a long line or tether to make sure they are unable to reach wild animals.

dogs sloths
Photo by Dids from Pexels

Tip 2: Use brightly coloured collars

Use brightly coloured collars and/or collars with a bell to alert wildlife to their presence.

Colorful Birdsbesafe® cat collars have shown to reduce bird mortality by 87%./Photo: Birdsbesafe®

Tip 3: Teach your dog how to come when called

This training tip not only helps to ensure the safety of wildlife but is an incredibly valuable tool to keep your dog out of harm’s way.

Tip 4: Teach your dog to stop or stay

Like learning how to come when called, learning to stop or stay is another great way to ensure the safety of wildlife and your pet.

Tip 5: Stop dog aggression

Aggression can often get in the way of you having a good time with your canine pal. Here are some tips for curbing some of those aggressive instincts!

For more awesome training techniques on how to prevent your dog from attacking other animals, check out this helpful website!

Dog running through grass chase small animals
https://wagwalking.com/training/not-kill-small-animals/

 

 

5 fun facts for dog day!

Now that we’ve gotten the training out of the way, here are 5 fun facts about dogs in honor of International Dog Day!

  1. Dogs have wet noses because the moisture helps to trap air particles helping them to smell better! Does wetting your nose make a difference? Give it a shot!
  2. Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic! Remember watching that film and thinking all the dogs probably didn’t survive? Well three did! They were all small dogs (like a Pomeranian puppy) and were smuggled on the lifeboat. Sorry Jack.
  3. The Beatles song ‘A Day in the Life’ has a frequency in it that only dogs can hear.
  4. A Bloodhound’s sense of smell can be used as evidence in a court of law.
  5. The most successful hunter in the world is actually a dog – The African Wild Dog’s hunts are successful 80% of the time which makes them the most successful land mammalian predator in the world – they even hold a Guinness World Record for it!

Interested in supporting our efforts to protect sloths by helping dogs?

Currently we fund the spaying and neutering of dogs on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in conjunction with two other great organisations: Puerto Viejo Dogs & Clinica Vetenario: Dr Arroyo y Dr Solano. Puerto Viejo Dogs rescues dogs from the streets, or ones taken by the government in abuse cases, and they fund the care for injured and/or sick dogs and cats. They also foster animals for adoption and so much more. They work with a wonderful veterinary clinic here, Clinica Vetenario: Dr Arroyo y Dr Solano, who spend their spare time providing free care to animals in need.

Both are amazing organisations in the South Caribbean and the animals here are so lucky to have them (follow them online to see more of their amazing work). To protect sloths while caring for dogs, we assist with the costs of spaying/neutering which can range from $30-$50 per animal. To continue helping the animals of the area and to help us assist even MORE animals you can join us by donating to the Oh My Dog project or sponsoring a spay/neuter for an animal in need here! Helping sloths, by helping dogs!

Helping Sloths By Helping Dogs

Sarah Kennedy
Director of Education & Outreach

Helping sloths by going plastic-free: 11 daily items you can change today!

Helping sloths by going plastic-free: 11 daily items you can change today!

July is plastic-free month. It is an opportunity to reflect on how we can reduce our plastic consumption, which not only harms our marine and terrestrial ecosystems but threatens our health as well.

The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! There are lots of helpful guides and websites filled with tips and plastic-free alternatives.

plastic-free sloths

So here are 11 daily items that you can exchange for plastic-free alternatives!

1) Plastic-free cigarettes

You have probably heard about plastic bags tragically making their way into marine ecosystems and filling the stomachs of sea turtles. However, the most littered item on Earth are cigarette butts which are the most frequently found item during beach clean ups.

The filters in cigarette butts can take up to 10 years to break down into smaller pieces (micro-plastics). As they break down they release nicotine and heavy metals into the environment.

Unfortunately, filters don’t improve lung health overall. There are some companies such as Greenbutts that manufacture biodegradable filters. However, even biodegradable filters will release their captured toxins upon breaking down.

So if you do smoke, you can reduce your daily use of plastic by opting for cigarettes without filters.

Cigarette butts end up in the digestive tracts of many kinds of wildlife/Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/24/health/dirty-truth-about-cigarette-filters/index.html

2) Plastic-free cotton swabs

Cotton swabs, cotton buds, Q-tips – they have a lot of names. Now even these single-use plastic products can be replaced by biodegradable alternatives!

plastic-free q

3) Plastic-free toothbrushes and toothpaste

Toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste are a recurrent sources of plastic pollution. Fortunately, bamboo toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste jars are great substitutes!

plastic-free tooth brush
Feeling crafty? You can make toothpaste from scratch yourself using activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and peppermint essential oil (just be sure not to store it in a metal container)

4) Plastic-free razors

Like toothbrushes, disposable razors are common daily items that lead to an accumulation of plastic waste overtime. Although razors with replaceable heads are better than entirely disposable ones, there are razors that are plastic-free altogether! Paired with the right shaving cream, these plastic-free razors not only reduce your environmental footprint but minimize irritation due to the harsh chemicals found in most shaving foams.

A plastic-free shaving experience is possible by going back to the tried and true methods of shaving/Source: Plastic Freedom

5) Plastic-free face and body scrubs

Exfoliating (i.e. gently scrubbing away dead skin cells) is a great way to maintain skin health. There are a variety of face and body scrubs on the market, but many of them unfortunately contain plastic microbeads to to aid in this process. These microplastics are too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants and therefore wind up in our oceans. Fortunately a number of companies have already switched to biodegradable alternatives or have pledged to remove plastic microbeads from their products.

There are a variety of recipes for face and body scrubs you can make at home.

6) Shampoo bars

Unfortunately many cosmetics, in addition to being packaged in plastic, are made from chemicals that threaten the health of humans and ecosystems alike. If you are concerned about the products you are currently using you can look up their safety status at the Environmental Working Groups’s Skin Deep database (or download their app!).

Moreover, many shampoos are designed to strip the natural oils from your hair and replace them with synthetic substitutes. Transitioning from conventional shampoo to using a shampoo bar can take a bit of patience but the results (and the health benefits) are well worth it!

plastic-free shampoo
“Transitioning to plastic-free shampoo bars was the easiest change I made” –Plastic Freedom

7) Plastic-free makeup

You don’t have to sacrifice the glamour by going plastic-free. Whether your daily routine consists of a bit of concealer or a full face of makeup, there are a lot of exciting plastic-free products that are also free from the harmful chemicals found in traditional makeup.

61% of popular lipstick brands were found to contain lead. Fortunately refillable makeup free from harmful chemicals is now available in many places/Source: Plastic Freedom

8) Plastic-free menstrual products

Menstrual cups and reusable period underwear solve a lot of problems. They drastically reduce plastic waste and water consumption and ensure that people suffering from period poverty, have a safe, long-term method to manage periods and avoid missing out on school.

Surprisingly, pads are composed of 90% plastic and the amount of plastic packaging used for tampons can be equally shocking. Menstrual cups drastically reduce plastic consumption, generating 99.6% less plastic waste than disposable pads and 94% less plastic waste created by tampons.

Even 100% cotton tampons can generate a significant environmental impact as cotton crops require impressive amounts of water.

There are lots of plastic-free menstrual products, from reusable pads, to period underwear to menstrual cups/ Source: https://www.treehuggerclothpads.com/?rfsn=1312907.28252

 

9) Refillable cleaning products

Buying in bulk is a great way to reduce plastic usage. However, companies such as Neat, have come up with an even better way to reduce plastic waste.

Many cleaning products are 90% water. Neat sells reusable spray bottles and offers concentrated refills in glass bottles that can be recycled.

10) Plastic-free sandwich wraps

Whether or not you are a sandwich eater, these food wraps can be used for a variety of food items. You can even make reusable food wraps at home by choosing a bit of your favorite cloth and melting on some beeswax!

Try to avoid products made by bees? These vegan food wraps are made from wax that would otherwise be disposed of during food processing.

11) Reusable tote bags

Single-use plastic bags are infamous for their uncanny ability to end up in the most unexpected places. Even places as remote as Mount Everest are struggling with pollution due to single-use plastics!

If you want to reduce your plastic consumption whilst supporting sloth conservation you can treat yourself to a reusable sloth tote (now 30% off for Plastic Free July)!

organic cotton tote bag
All the purchases from our Sloth Shop go towards sloth conservation!

 

-Katra Laidlaw

How sloths and people benefit from a plastic-free future

How sloths and people benefit from a plastic-free future

You may have heard of or remember a time when milk was delivered in glass bottles to your doorstep. In the span of a lifetime (80 years), we have gone from reusing and repairing most of our possessions to one where disposable products are the norm.

plastic-free life
Milkman truck from the 1940s/Source: https://historydaily.org/vintage-photos-milkmen-throughout-history

 

plastic-free life
Our grandparents’ generation lived a -mostly- plastic-free life. Leading brands such as Coca-Cola are still reluctant to go plastic-free./ Photo: oldphotoguy.com

The origins of modern garbage

This shift occurred for a variety of reasons: a coalescing of forces that led to a boom in consumerism post WWII and a desire on the part of businesses to harness this sudden rise in consumption to maximize profit.

The strategy that they devised was an unobvious one. In a pivotal moment at a plastics industry conference in 1956, a speaker looked out on the crowd and said, “your future is in the garbage wagon.” Instead of creating products that would last, the speaker proposed that they needed to create products that were intended to be thrown away.

It was a brilliant tactic. If they could simply get people to throw things away, then they would come back to buy more.

People had to be taught to throw things away. There were a variety of education campaigns at the time explaining to consumers how to throw things away and manage their garbage.

Learn more about the social and political history of garbage in the U.S./Source of image: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vintage-ads-plastic_n_5cdb1768e4b01e9bd3540ffa

 

How We Created a Throwaway Society

The unknown future of plastics

Although plastics in the ocean break down much faster than we expected , no one is sure how long plastic will persist in our ecosystems, due to their tendency to break up into smaller pieces.

The study of plastics and their effect on the environment has largely been focused on marine ecosystems (due to the visibility of plastic in the ocean and its dramatic implications for marine and human life). Only as recently as 2012 have we begun to evaluate the effect of plastics on soil and plants.

plastic-free oceans
As plastic breaks down into smaller pieces, they are eaten by marine life, entering the food chain and threatening the health of marine animals and humans alike./Infographic: WWF

Our understanding is still a theoretical one. As plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces, the likelihood that they can leach harmful chemicals into the environment increases.

Phytoremediation is the deliberate use of specific plant species to remove, stabilize or break down contaminants in the soil. Given that plants have the ability to absorb harmful compounds in the soil, such as arsenic, it likely that they also have the capacity to absorb nanoplastics in the soil.

A recent review of research on the effect of plastics on terrestrial ecosystems concluded that, “At present, we know next to nothing about the effects of this factor of global change on plants.

An overview of pollutants and their potential for phytoremediation/ Source: Kate Kennan and Niall Kirkwood’s book PHYTO: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design

 

Eliminating plastic safeguards the health of ecosystems and humans alike

Among the harmful chemicals that plastics are known to release are endocrine disruptors, a class of chemicals which mimic our human hormones, such as estrogen, resulting in a variety of health consequences for humans and other animals. As plastics break down in the ocean, they also release a variety of chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) which threaten the lives of marine animals and the people that eat them. Unfortunately, even low doses of these chemicals can cause adverse health effects, such as cancer.

Banning single-use plastics: A case study in Kenya

In addition to the changes that can be made on the scale of the consumer, many cities and countries have banned the use of single-use plastic. Notably, in 2017, the entire country of Kenya banned single-use plastic bags. Prior to the ban waterways clogged with plastic would often lead to floods. Since the ban of plastic bags, there has been a notable reduction in the amount of plastic in the streets and common areas that once had plastic waste piled as high as a person.

plastic-free cow
In urban areas in Kenya as much as 50% of cows had plastic bags in their stomachs/Photo: BBC

How sloths benefit from a plastic-free future

It is likely that sloths benefit from less plastic pollution in their environment. However, plastics pose the greatest threat to sloths and humans alike by generating profits for the fossil fuel industry and thus fueling our climate crisis. Plastics are derived from fossil fuels, such as crude oil. As our consumption of plastic rises, it is quickly becoming the primary driver of oil demand globally.

Sloths have survived on earth for almost 64 million years. Their winning strategies: moving slowly and saving energy. In order to save energy, they have lost the ability to regulate their body temperature. Their internal body temperature depends on the environment and can change by 10 ◦C over the course of a day. 

Sloths have two layers of fur that help them to maintain their body temperature. / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

If it becomes too cold for sloths, the essential microbes in their gut can die and they can starve to death on a full stomach. Curiously, when temperatures become too high, the metabolism of sloths begins to decrease.

Sloths are particularly vulnerable to the increased variation in temperatures in tropical countries due to climate change. Because they lack the ability to regulate their internal body temperatures, they heavily depend upon the temperature of the environment.

Reducing our plastic consumption individually and collectively reduces our exposure to harmful chemicals while combating climate change. Moreover, reducing our consumption of plastic helps to safeguard the future of the vulnerable: sloths and people alike.

plastic
Sloths and other types of wildlife appreciate a plastic-free future! / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

A plastic free-future

It may be disheartening to realize that the immense amount of plastic pollution that we and our ecosystems face today stemmed from a deliberate plan to maximize profits.

However, if we learned how to throw things away, we can learn how to reuse them again.

Eliminating plastic from your life may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, we don’t have to start from scratch. Organizations such as Plastic Freedom, with their line of plastic-free products, are dedicated to bringing about a future without plastic.

They offer plastic-free alternatives ranging from toothpaste to dental floss to razors. There is a good chance that the item you are looking for comes in a refillable version free from plastic.

Moreover, for every order they receive, they plant a tree somewhere in the world. These trees help to restore habitat and replenish the natural resources that we depend upon.

Plastic-free alternatives prevent exposure to health-threatening chemicals while reducing your ecological footprint. Even in the context of our global pandemic, fabric masks can be safely used as an alternative to disposable ones.

plastic-free shop
Some big brand shops have begun taking steps to strip their shelves of plastic wrapping. / Photo: phys.org

What ideas do you have to reduce your use of plastics in your life? Every small action counts!

Katra Laidlaw

Sloths and Cacao: You can have your chocolate cake and eat it too

Sloths and cacao: You can have your chocolate cake and eat it too

There comes a point in childhood when we begin to understand the concept of finite resources. The oft-used phrase, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” captures the idea that we often have to choose between the things that we love.

However, if you love sloths AND chocolate, you might not have to make that painful choice between enjoying chocolate cake and enjoying the presence of sloths in the wild.

CHOCOLATE

Where chocolate comes from

Chocolate comes from a medium-sized tree that grows in the understory of tropical forests. Growing directly from the bark of the cacao tree are large colorful pods, that are filled with seeds covered in a thin layer of sweet, fruity pulp. Once mature, the seeds are harvested, fermented, roasted and ground to make chocolate. Traditionally chocolate was drank unsweetened and has deep cultural and spiritual significance for many indigenous communities.

cacao chocolate
Cacao trees heavily rely on small flying insects called midges to pollinate their flowers.

 

cacao chocolate
Inside the pods is this sweet sour pulp and the cacao beans

 

cacao beans
Your chocolate comes from these beans!

The origins of cacao

Because cacao grows best in the shade of other trees they are often found in agroforestry systems. Agroforestry systems consist of food crops growing underneath a forest canopy and have been cultivated by indigenous communities for thousands of years.

The Amazon rainforest, once thought be a wild and untamed place, has actually been profoundly shaped by 8000 years of indigenous agroforestry. Although the exact origins of cacao are debated, some of the earliest evidence of cacao in pre-Colombian societies was over 5000 years ago in South America.

chocolate
The traditional way BriBri people grind the cacao beans

How chocolate benefits sloths and people

You may be accustomed to hearing how many food crops, from palm plantations to pineapples, threaten wildlife in tropical ecosystems. Large monocultures inundated with pesticides and herbicides threaten the health of humans and wildlife alike while reducing and fragmenting the habitat that remains.

Not all chocolate is produced in a way that is beneficial to wildlife and the communities they live in. However, when chocolate is produced in a way that makes space for wildlife while empowering local people, it is a truly sweet combination.

Agroforestry practices are a powerful way to maintain biodiversity primarily because, unlike most conventional agriculture, the cultivation of crops does not lead to the elimination of the forest canopy. In fact, many agroforestry systems actively promote biodiversity and soil health by maintaining a comparable level of plant diversity as found in the adjacent forest.

A diverse agroforestry system has the impressive ability of providing food for wildlife and people alike. Several studies have highlighted that cacao agroforestry systems play an important role in providing habitat for sloths and other wildlife. Two and three-fingered sloths have been observed living in cacao agroforestry systems.

caao crops
Agroforestry system: How many species of trees can you count in this picture?

Sloths eat cacao too

Sloths have even been known to eat cacao leaves and pods. Fortunately sloths do not pose a threat to the cacao trees because they eat very few leaves on a daily basis (it takes them 30 days to digest a single leaf)!

 

sloths chocolate
Sloths like cacao too!

 

Threats to cacao

One of the most potent threats to cacao in its recent history has been due to a fungal disease known as monilia. The fungi that cause this disease raged untamed for many years causing farmers to lose up to 80% of their cacao and eventually abandon their farms.

Monilia arrived in Costa Rica in the 1970s. Shortly thereafter, CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) started developing resistant strains of cacao that are used on many farms today.

One of CATIE’s resistant strains of cacao/Source: https://ticotimes.net/2014/01/27/costa-ricas-chocolate-comeback

In addition to monilia, one of the main threats to cacao today is the shift that small farmers of Costa Rica are concerned about. The abandoning of small-scale farming in exchange for industrial-scale farming and a growing disinterest in the next generation.

After monilia swept through the region, many cacao farms were abandoned. However, thanks to the resistant strains and the hard work of farmers, cooperatives and scientists, chocolate in the region may not have a bitter future after all.

Finca La Cabra Feliz (The Happy Goat Farm)

Finca La Cabra Feliz (The Happy Goat Farm) is an agroforestry farm just north of Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica. We had the pleasure of visiting Don Roberto Selina’s certified organic, Fair Trade, and Bandera Azul accredited farm which is home to a great variety of fruiting trees and wildlife (and happy goats of course)! 

cacao farm chocolate costa rica
Several three-fingered sloths live near the river that runs through the property.

In addition to producing chocolate, fresh goat milk, and a diversity of tropical fruits, Don Roberto Selina has a tree nursery of his own, planting endangered trees such as the Cola de Pavo (Turkey’s tail tree) (Hymenolobium mesoamericanum).

Don Roberto Selinas’s farm is an invaluable resource for the ecological and local community. He believes in sharing. The fruit growing on the trees is plentiful enough to be shared with wildlife and he teaches agroecology to local students and visitors that come to the farm.

“Tiene que sembrar para cosechar” (In order to harvest you have to plant) – Don Roberto

Coopecacao Afro

La Cabra Feliz was brought to our attention because it is one of the model farms that is part of a local cacao cooperativeCoopecacao Afro, which unites and supports Afro-Caribbean communities. At the helm is Don Edgar Campbell, a respected community member, teacher and thought leader.

Central to Coopecacao Afro’s mission is the understanding and appreciation of natural systems, actively cultivating and making space for the biodiversity that sustains us. They remember the time when the river was full of fish that could sustain families (before the arrival of banana plantations). They speak of a striking a green and black bird that was a staple of life in the Caribbean which can no longer be found.

CoopeCacao Afro and many other farmers are concerned by the loss of biodiversity and the transition away from ways of life that are more in harmony with the natural world. They aim to preserve the cacao agroforestry systems that remain while educating the next generation, strengthening communities and ensuring a future for these valuable communal resources.

How can you get involved?

If you are interested in purchasing chocolate that is wildlife-friendly and empowering to communities, look for Fair Trade, shade-grown cacao. Be on the lookout for ingredients such as palm oil which threaten a variety of wildlife from critically endangered orangutans to grey-capped central american squirrel monkey in Costa Rica.

If you have the chance of visiting or living in a country where cacao is grown, engaging in agro-tourism that supports small farms such as Don Roberto Selinas is a wonderful way to learn firsthand about the how cacao is grown and processed (and of course you can buy these delicious products directly from the farmer!).

We at SloCo are developing a sloth-friendly chocolate program, designed to benefit sloths and the communities they reside in. Due to the ongoing pandemic and social distancing measures, some of our community-based programs have been put on pause. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will be launching this program, so stay tuned!

Katra Laidlaw