Forget flowers or chocolates. This year the perfect Valentine's Day gift is a bucket of sloths. A party-sized bucket with plenty of sloth hugs to go around.
I filmed this particular tub of love at the Aviarios del Caribe sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, a somewhat eccentric place where the sight of a red bucket brimming with baby sloths is commonplace. And nobody looks twice.
Nobody expect me. When I first visited the sanctuary back in 2010, I realized that this was an extraordinary world. As a zoologist I have always been fascinated by the sloth's idiosyncratic biology. What's not to like about an animal that spends up to 80 percent of its time, ahem, 'resting'? And this place is home to more than 150 snoozing sloths, many the victim of man's desire to go faster than nature intended. Sixty years of evolution have not prepared the sloth for the roads and power lines that now criss-cross its jungle home.
I posted a short video, 'Meet the Sloths,' online and within days it went viral, knocking up a million views in under a week. The video went on to be tweeted by celebrities like Ricky Gervais and Ashton Kutcher, and was featured in international press from the Moscow Times to the Washington Post, who declared sloths 'the new kittens.'
I've made this latest video to celebrate the release of my first book, A Little Book of Sloth. Featuring adorable photographs, facts and whimsical stories about the slumbering residents of the world's first sloth orphanage.
Contrary to popular belief, sloths aren't lazy or stupid but mindful and energy-saving. And utterly adorable. The babies in particular are a goofy mixture of inappropriate dozing, wobbly vulnerability and hooks for hands.
Baby sloths are Jedi masters of hugging, a reflex action that helps them cling to their mum high up in the trees for the first year six months of their lives. With nothing to hold, the orphaned babies often arrive distressed, but are calmed by a stuffed toy to squeeze in place of their mum.
Sloths have an unusually low body temperature for a warm-blooded mammal and the Costa Rican nights can be a trifle chilly for a baby who no longer has its mum to cling to. So the very young ones are kept in incubators and in extreme cases wear bespoke sloth pajamas handcrafted from old sports socks. These should come with a public health warning -- the sight of a baby sloth in a toweling onesie is enough to make a grown woman's ovaries explode from cute overload.
And as for the red bucket. Well, it's the easiest way to transport half a dozen sleepy babies from snack time to nap time. Bucket by the way is the sloths' favorite way to travel. It's fast. It's like flying. And it allows them to snooze on the move. Sweet.
A Little Book of Sloth is published by Simon and Schuster on March 5th 2013. A percentage of sales goes to the sloth sanctuary so that they can continue their work rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned and injured animals. You can pre-order your copy
Sloths have long been derided as lazy and stupid but I think we humans have a lot to learn from their from their energy-efficient lifestyle. The world is moving at an unsustainable pace. And so are we. In fact all this rushing around could be slowly killing us as well as the planet we live on. A rrecent scientific study revealed the need to for us to value sleep more. Without enough sleep, we increase our risk of a wide range of illnesses from diabetes to cancer.
So it's probably a good thing that the second annual International Sloth Day is just around the corner, on October 20th. A day for us to slow down and appreciated the way of the sloth.
Sloth Day is organized by the AIUNAU sloth foundation, which has a sanctuary in Colombia that rescues sloths that have been zapped by power lines, hit by cars or stolen for the illegal pet trade. Tinka Plese, who started the foundation, is pioneering work rehabilitating these cryptic animals and releasing them back into the wild.
I visited the sanctuary in March and was really impressed by the work they do. So I made this little video to help them promote their work. Almost all of the sloths in the video have now been successfully released back into the wild where they belong.
Saving sloths is expensive work and AIUNAU desperately need more funding to carry on rehabilitating these gentle creatures and educating other organizations in central and south America to do the same. So why not organize a slow fundraiser for AIUNAU this sloth day? You could give up coffee for the week, take a slow bike-ride to work and sleep-in on Saturday. Then donate the money you save to AIUNAU. It would be good for you, and the sloths.
Lucy Cooke's first book, 'A Little Book of Sloth', featuring cute pictures and stories about these gentle creatures is released in March 2013. A percentage of profits is going towards saving sloths. You can pre-order it
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In a sleepy corner of Costa Rica there's a very peculiar sanctuary. The only one in the world devoted to saving orphaned and injured sloths.
For the past year I've been making a documentary about this curious place and it's somnolent residents. It premiers this Saturday December 17th at 8pm EST on Animal Planet. It's a very funny film about a bunch of sloths whose lives are not as sleepy as you might think.
The sanctuary is run by celebrated sloth whisperer Judy Arroyo and is home to over 160 sloths. Many arrive as orphaned babies whose mother's have been zapped by power lines or hit by cars.
Judy does her best to be a sloth mom and teach the babies how to be a sloth -- potty training and how to climb are key parts of their sloth school curriculum. But at present she doesn't know how to teach them what leaves are safe to eat. The Costa Rican jungle is a veritable pharmacy of toxic trees and sloths are adapted to eat just a handful of species.
So Judy's hand-raised orphans remain guests at her exclusive five-star retreat for the rest of their lives. There they are lovingly cared for and have their every whim catered for. But there is just one house rule. No sex. With the sanctuary full to bursting Judy really doesn't want any more baby sloths.
But the problem they have is that when the sanctuary females are in heat they scream. For sex. This attracts male wild sloths from up to 700m away. For twenty years a steady stream of creeping Casanova's have beaten a slow path to the sanctuary to try their luck with the ladies.
These wild Lothario's are remarkably persistent and my film features one particularly cheeky male whom Judy christened Randy. His exploits led me to believe that sloths have in fact been named after the wrong deadly sin. Lust would be far more appropriate.
For more information about the film log on to www.slothville.com, follow slothville on facebook or @slothville on...
Six months ago I posted a short video I made called "Meet the sloths" that features some of the sleepy residents of the Aviarios del Caribe, the world's only sloth orphanage in Costa Rica. The world then went nuts for sloths, the video went viral and has now...