Last month, Sloth Sanctuary founder Judy and I travelled to Texas to visit the sanctuary’s sloth ambassadors currently living at the Dallas World Aquarium (DWA). Because three-fingered sloths are so notoriously difficult to maintain in captivity outside of their natural home range, I was interested to see how these sloths have adapted to living in a simulated rainforest environment in downtown Dallas!
DWA has provided an excellent home over the past 9 years for three three-fingered sloths and three two-fingered sloths that were all rescued by the sanctuary as tiny orphans. They were transferred to the aquarium to act as educational ambassadors, teaching people about sloths and raising awareness of the problems that they are facing. The facility is beautifully designed to replicate their natural habitat, with real trees for the sloths to move around freely, and the temperature and humidity levels being constantly monitored. DWA grows many of the tropical leaves that are known to form part of the sloth’s natural diet, including pseudobombax and chorisia, and they even have cecropia leaves and pods (one of the sloth’s favorite foods) shipped in fresh from Hawaii every 4 days. Upon arrival, we were delighted to see just how well all of the sloths were doing: they are robust, strong, active and extremely healthy.
The aim of my research was to monitor the three-fingered sloths activity using Daily Diary data loggers, and to compare their behaviours at DWA to what I have observed from those maintained here at the sanctuary in Costa Rica. I equipped two of the sloths, Leno and Jewel, with backpacks, recording every movement they made, 24 hours a day, both on and off exhibit for a week. I will be analysing this data to determine exactly how they have adapted to a life in Texas.
I would like to say a great big thank you to Daryl, Gerald and the entire staff at the Dallas World Aquarium for their hard work and dedication in looking after the sloths, and for making us feel so welcome during our visit.