The Ultimate Sloth Selfie Code
Would you like to have your photograph taken with a sloth? A sloth selfie for social media? When considering a sloth encounter, the most important thing to remember is the slogan of the year: social distancing! 💚 Sloths are big supporters of the self-isolation lifestyle. As a solitary prey species they enjoy lots of personal space and become stressed out if anyone gets too close.
A lot of countries are slowly starting to lift their travel restrictions and people are beginning to think about possible post-pandemic vacations! Costa Rica is fast-emerging as one of the best places to visit for a safe, ecotourism adventure: not only because of the commitment of the local people to protecting wildlife, but also because of the awe-inspiring biodiversity, raw nature and fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities that the country offers. With a world-renowned healthcare system, the authorities of Costa Rica are working hard to guarantee a safe experience for visitors when the borders re-open.
But let’s talk about sloths. If you visit Costa Rica you are almost guaranteed to see a sloth. In a National Park sloth viewing may be limited to staring at a small ball of fur at the top of a tall rainforest tree (a sloths preferred sleeping spot). However in urban areas sloths can easily be seen while crossing between trees on the ground, hanging from a power line or sleeping in an isolated tree at the side of the road.
At this point, you might be tempted to take a selfie photograph with the sloth for social media. It will make everyone back at home jealous. Maybe you will be tempted to reach out and touch the fur, just to see what it feels like. Or maybe someone else is already holding the sloth and they offer you the opportunity to have your photo taken with it. What should you do?
To help you navigate this difficult decision we have created the Ultimate Sloth Selfie Code that you should follow whenever taking a picture with a sloth. As long as you stick to the code, you can be sure that you are making an ethical and informed decision that is not causing any harm to the animal.
1. Never pay to pet or hold a sloth!
This is the biggest thing to avoid (and a huge red flag) when taking pictures with wild animals. Behind the tourist trap encounter experiences that promote wildlife petting, there is a dark side of poaching, illegal wildlife trafficking and animal exploitation. Most people simply do not know the dark truth behind the animal encounter that they are experiencing. If they did, they certainly wouldn’t support it. Please check out the link below if you want to learn more about the dark side of the wildlife selfie industry.
2. Social distancing and no touching!
Always keep a minimum distance of 2 meters/6 feet from a sloth. Always give wild animals plenty of space as you can make them scared, stressed and they can react aggressively. Touching or petting the sloth is a big NO. Don’t get fooled by those cute faces and slow movements: they can react quickly when threatened and a sloth bite is no joke!
3. Don’t use the flash of your camera!
Nobody likes a flashing camera and sloths are no exception. When using the flash you could hurt their eyes! This rule applies to all animals, not only sloths.
4. Keep your selfie stick to yourself!
A sloth will view the selfie stick as an extension of your body – so please keep your distance even with all of your gadgets!
5. Don’t bait the sloth with food
There is nothing in your backpack that is good for a sloth. Sloths feed on leaves – and they are surrounded by leaves in the trees that they live in. Always remember that you should never offer food to wildlife. You could be contributing to a dangerous change in the natural behavior of animals, not to mention that our human food can be really harmful for the health of the animals.
6. Don’t shout or disturb the sloth with loud noises
Always avoid making loud noises to attract the attention of animals – you will be scaring them! We know how exciting it can be to see a sloth (I cried when I saw one for the first time), but try to keep your voice down to avoid causing unnecessary stress.
7. Be a sloth hero: stop sloth harassment!
Now that you understand the rules of ethical sloth watching, you can help by sharing this knowledge with others. Most of the time people are not aware that their actions can disturb an animal. So whenever you see somebody harassing a sloth, you can gently explain to them why this is not OK – you might even make a new friend!
In most countries direct contact with wild animals is prohibited by law, but this doesn’t mean that is doesn’t happen. Sometimes you will get offered an opportunity to take a picture or hold a wild animal on the side of the road for a few dollars. Please don’t ever do this as you will be encouraging the illegal wildlife trade. We don’t recommend that you confront these people as they can be dangerous, but you can always call the authorities or a local rescue center in the area.
Here at SloCo we work to protect sloths in the wild, but we know that sloths are a part of the whole ecosystem. As a result, one of the best ways to help sloths is by helping to conserve the rainforests that they live in and all of the other species that they coexist with. Whether it is a sloth, a monkey, or a raccoon, you should always keep your distance and say no to wildlife selfies.
Spread the word!
A lot of people (including our friends and family) may not be aware of how wildlife encounters can be harmful to the animals that we are so enamored with. You can play an important role by talking to them and helping us to spread this information. Knowledge is power – the more people who understand the wildlife selfie code, the less sloths will be exploited for profit in countries like Costa Rica. Together we can end animal exploitation as photo props!
Field Operations Manager