The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica have now received 9 orphaned baby sloths showing birth defects. The affected sloths were all C.hoffmanni infants originating from the Limon province on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. The deformities have all been strikingly similar; missing fingers/toes, malformed ears, misshapen limbs and partial or full albinism. High numbers of birth defects like this in any population are a warning sign that something is seriously wrong. I suspect that the deformities we are seeing are the direct result of either extensive habitat fragmentation, or the excessive use of pesticides for agriculture. However, before we can develop any targeted conservation strategies, we have to identify and fully understand the root cause of the problem – and that means completing the necessary genetic research.
You might remember that last year I ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to fund urgent research into the genetic health of wild sloth populations. As a result, I was able to collect data and hair samples from over 300 wild-born sloths (both two-fingered C.hoffmanni and three-fingered B.variegatus) originating from over 97 different regions in Costa Rica. This is a far larger sample size than has ever been studied before and it will undoubtedly provide us with the answers that we need. Unfortunately, however, I once again need to ask for your help in order to complete the final stage of this urgent research.