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 here.
Follow Lucy Cooke on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@amphib_avenger