The Sloth Institute Costa Rica Takes Care Of Baby Sloths, And It's Even More Precious Than It Sounds
Grab a box of tissues, because you're about to experience far too many feelings. The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI) has been making the rounds online lately, and not just because sloths are the Internet's third-favorite animal (behind cats and corgis, of course). Founded in 2013, the Institute has quite possibly the cutest mission statement known to animal- and mankind: Researching, rescuing, and rehabilitating sloths. Including baby sloths. Including baby orphaned sloths. Do you see where this is going?
Unlike most other wildlife sanctuaries, Mental Floss reports that TSI makes an effort to release sloths back into the wild after being rescued. If a young sloth has lost its mother, it may not have learned the skills necessary to survive on its own, and unfortunately, not enough is known about sloth biology to teach them these skills in captivity. As a result, Upworthy reports that orphaned sloths usually stay in captivity — but that's where TSI comes in.
According to Metro, TSI co-founder Sam Trull takes on the role of mother for baby sloths until they're ready for something called "soft release." Rather than just dropping the young sloths off in the middle of the rain forest, which is unlikely to end well, Wildlife International describes soft release as a "gradual return to the wild whereby an animal receives support, shelter, and food until it is entirely able to fend for itself."
Trull told Upworthy that TSI keeps the baby sloths in a large cage near the rehabilitation site. Once the animals appear ready for release, the team begins leaving the cage door open so the animals can meander in and out until they live totally in the wild.
Although Trull raises the baby sloths individually, it's important to note that the Institute isn't a wildlife sanctuary; it's a nonprofit organization where sloths aren't available to interact with the public. "It is in their best interest to have as little human contact as possible," TSI writes on its website.
Trull doesn't spend all day, every day with baby sloths these days, but she's amassed a plethora of photos during her time as the self-proclaimed Mother of Sloths. She recently turned these photos into a book called Slothlove , natch, and it's exactly as precious as it sounds.
"Every sloth has a different personality and a different story. ... I love them all, but my bond is different with each sloth and I wanted to highlight individuals that stood out to me and to whom I was particularly close," she told Manhattan Book Review.
Two sloths, Kermie and Ellen, have been released successfully into the wild so far, but Trull told Upworthy that they're doing fine on their own as the team continues to monitor their progress.
As if that's not enough to give you Feelings-with-a-capital-F, the Institute has a super freakin' adorable Instagram page, which you can check out here.