Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sloths

I've been wanting to visit the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center in Rainier, Oregon for a long time, but was never quite ready to make the splurge.  They keep a wide variety of rare and endangered animals from around the world in order to research the best possible practices in sustainable captive care and breeding. But they are not a zoo, and allow occasional public tours basically as fundraisers for their efforts, putting the animals first. Sadly, they announced recently that new laws prohibit visitor interaction with most of their animals.  But until such time as these encounters are banned as well,  they are still offering opportunities for visitors to spend time with 11 very tame two-toed sloths from their colony of 350 captive sloths. We decided we would take the plunge.

Sloths are highly endangered as their rainforest habitat is quickly getting destroyed.  Before forests are chopped down, dedicated conservationists try to arrange capture and relocation of the sloth populations if at all possible.  The Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center has taken in many. Visitors can participate in daytime encounters, or go all out and spend the night inside two-person cot tents to observe these nocturnal animals. We prepared for our daytime encounter by reading up on sloths and watching the Nature program, "A Sloth Named Velcro" which we borrowed from the library.

I am so glad we went! Being with these gentle animals, watching their serene movements, and gazing into their trusting eyes was very moving. At first, they were all asleep, but awakened and descended from their tall perches as they began to smell the cucumber slices we offered them. Apparently sloth babies can be quite squeeky, but the adults were perfectly silent. They were surprisingly graceful.  I never expected that I would actually feel that I'd gotten my money's worth; rather I just hoped I would feel that the donation was for a worthy cause.  Instead I felt it was an experience none of us will ever forget.

Photo by Jasper.
Photo by Jasper.
There are two males in this sloth enclosure, and one is always kept apart to prevent fighting.

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