MY DAY AT THE SLOTH SANCTUARY OF COSTA RICA
In April, I had the opportunity to travel with my sister and New Thing Nurse team member, Anna Wells, down to Costa Rica. This was not my first time to this beautiful country. From 2008 to 2009, I spent nearly a year in Monteverde, Costa Rica where I volunteered as an English teacher in a small, mountain community called Santa Elena. I had an amazing time and made some incredible memories, but nursing school, work and life had since prevented me from returning for nearly eight years (how does that always seem to happen?).
This year, my sister and I decided to make it happen and head down for a Central American adventure. During our trip planning, I knew of one destination that absolutely had to make the trip agenda. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica is a famous spot known for being on of the few locations where one can see sloths who have been rescued and are in the process of rehabilitation to be released back to the wild in Central America.
If you don’t know this yet, I LOVE SLOTHS. They are my spirit animal. If you are wondering why I feel so much in common with these lethargic tree-dwellers, just ask my husband, family or friends how much I love to sleep, take my sweet time and just hang out. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica was a natural stop to add to our trip.
I am excited to share with you my day at the Sloth Sanctuary and my time in their Slothpital. How we care for our natural world is a direct reflection of how we are taking care of ourselves and our fellow humans. Environmental health and our own health go hand in hand. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica can teach us a few things about taking care of ourselves and our planet.
Now – more sloths!!
WHAT IS A SLOTH?
At this point you may be wondering, what exactly is a sloth? Besides being my favorite animalito, sloths are tree-dwelling mammals that are found in the tropical forests throughout Central and South America. Sloths are known for their slow, deliberate movements and equally slow metabolisms. How slow are we are talking? Let’s just say that it can take up to a month to digest consumed nutrients. But staff at the Sloth Sanctuary will tell you that they are not slow, just energy efficient. Sloths are able to move with unexpected speed when threatened, so do not let that slow reputation fool you!
There are two types of sloths that live at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica – the Bradypus variegatus (three-fingered sloth) and the Choloepus hoffmanni (two-fingered sloth). Buttercup, the Sloth Sanctuary’s longest resident, is the Bradypus variegatus variety for reference. Many resources discuss the types of sloths as being “two- or three-toed”, but the Sanctuary divides them in terms of “two- or three-fingers”. Fun Fact - All sloths have three toes on each hind foot. The number of digits only differ on the front feet, thus making it easier to consider them “fingers”. #themoreyouknow
WHAT IS THE SLOTH SANCTUARY OF COSTA RICA?
Located outside of Cahuita, Costa Rica along the Estrella River, the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica was founded by Judy Avey-Arroyo and Luis Arroyo. Originally purchased as a location for birding tours, the Sloth Sanctuary evolved into a sloth rescue center after their first sloth, named Buttercup, was brought to the property in 1992.
Buttercup is now over 25 years old and still resides at the Sanctuary. The Sloth Sanctuary has been an officially authorized rescue center since 1997 and continues to be a center for conservation work and research. Today, the staff at the Sloth Sanctuary continuously works towards its mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release their sloths back into their natural habitats.
A DUSTY ARRIVAL TO THE BUTTERCUP INN
Anna and I arrived at the Sanctuary in the evening after a long day on the bus from San Jose. Dusty and tired, we were welcomed and shown to our room at the Buttercup Inn. Yes, that’s right. Buttercup, the Sanctuary’s longest sloth resident, has her own hotel. After dinner and a shower, we had a nice, long, sloth-like sleep that got us ready for a day in my personal sloth-y heaven.
MY DAY IN SLOTH PARADISE
Keep Calm & Hang On
“Keep Calm & Hang On” is the mantra at the Sloth Sanctuary, and I also think that it would also be a great slogan for any emergency department. While the pace of life at the Sloth Sanctuary did not require me to hang on tight often, I did have to hang in there as our day in sloth paradise started bright and early.
Anna and I started our day with coffee by the water followed by a boat tour of the local waterways that are off-shoots of the Estrella River. The lush landscape is filled with plants and animals everywhere you look. Our guide helped identify all kinds of local flora and fauna as we enjoyed our leisurely ride down the river. It was a truly delightful way to start the day.
Next, we met Marco, our Sloth Sanctuary guide, who took us on a tour of the areas where some of the permanent residents of the sloth sanctuary are kept. Unfortunately for many complex reasons, some sloths are unable to be returned to their natural habitats. The Sanctuary has become a permanent residence for many such sloths and is now currently working to expand their capacity to be able to better accommodate their slow but beautiful group of tenants.
After touring the permanent resident pavilion, Anna and I got to go to the SLOTHPITAL where Sanctuary staff take care of their adult and littlest sloth-lings. To say that I was excited is an understatement. I WAS FREAKING OUT but trying to maintain a cool composure (I mean, I was there as a professional nurse blogger person). Behind the Buttercup Inn, we climbed the stairs to find ourselves in a room full of tiny sloth life. This was the cutest P.I.C.U. that I have ever seen. Please see the photos below to see why I melted for the duration of our Slothpital stay.
On the day that we took our tour, the Slothpital P.I.C.U. was caring for several dozen small patients. Specially trained staff are in charge of these buckets of cuteness and work around the clock to keep them fed and comfortable.
Anna and I next toured the Slothpital clinic where I noted that all of the same resources that my emergency department has is available at the Slothpital – phlebotomy, lab, X-ray and ultrasound. The Sanctuary has a local veterinarian who is available at any time their patients need admission physical evaluations, check-ups or any sort of increased levels of medical care. I was surprised to find out that the Slothpital also has a very busy obstetrics service that was getting ready to deliver a baby sloth the day that we were taking our tour. Like my E.R. colleagues, the Slothpital staff are always on high-alert because they never knew what was going to happen next.
While caring for sloths may not seem like it could have anything to do with human healthcare, I beg to differ. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica is a place where any sloth can go for care and rehabilitation with the goal of returning everyone to their home environment in optimal health. If that isn't the best goal that nurses could also set for their patients, I do not know what is. The way we care for the natural world reflects the values that we have for ourselves. I hope that I get to see a day where everyone in healthcare is as invested in providing the best care possible to their patients just like the staff at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica.
- Sarah @ New Thing Nurse
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About the Author - Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL is an educator, speaker, blogger and owner of New Thing Nurse, a professional and academic coaching company for the nursing world. New Thing Nurse is organized to provide support and guidance to aspiring nurses, newly graduated nurses, and veteran RNs looking to make a change in their life.
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