Finding the Hoffmann’s Two-Toed Sloth in Costa Rica
We’re joined again this week by Margarita, the writer and photographer behindthe wildlife diaries. The Wildlife Diaries is awildlife travel blog, dedicated to promoting ethical wildlife tourism through travel stories, trip reports, field notes and photography. Her stories fit in perfectly with this series and it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed with her Instagram! This week she’ll be telling us about her adventures in Costa Rica’s Tirimbina Reserve and how she came face to face with a Hoffmann’s Two-toed sloth!
We’ve spoken briefly about your animal encounters while in Costa Rica, which have been your favourite to see in their natural environment and why?
A couple of years ago, my two friends and I took a road trip across some of Costa Rica’s best National Parks and Wildlife Reserves. We had plenty of wildlife experiences on the trip, some at a very close range, but none as up-close and personal as the encounter with a Hoffmann’s Two-toed sloth in Tirimbina Reserve.
It was raining early in the morning, but once the rain stopped, we went for a walk to the canopy suspension bridge to check out what critters were out and about. We were standing in the middle of the bridge, 35 meters above the forest floor, watching nunbirds fluttering about in the canopy.
Suddenly, I noticed movement on the bridge out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and for a moment couldn’t believe my eyes. A wet and shaggy Sloth was climbing along the top support cable of the bridge. It was making steady progress and soon we noticed that it had a baby clinging to its belly.
Before long, mama sloth passed right above our heads and continued moving across the bridge. Once she reached the trees on the other side, she effortlessly climbed onto the branches and moved further into the canopy.
How did it make you feel, being able to see them up close in their own home?
It is always a privilege to see a wild animal in its natural habitat. Being able to watch an animal go about its day without being affected by your presence is rare and very rewarding. It makes me feel like I have been accepted by the animal into its world, if only for a brief moment. And I always feel a profound sense of gratitude when a wild animal chooses to trust me and to approach me of its own accord.
You can read even more about Margarita’s Costa Rica adventure here
Did you experience this encounter with a tour? What made you choose that particular company?
We booked our stay directly with Tirimbina Reserve mainly because it was recommended by other wildlife watchers. Tirimbina functions as both a research station and a reserve that protects an incredible abundance of wildlife. From the recommendations, we knew that wildlife watching at Tirimbina would completely natural and ethical.
Had you seen them before in a zoo/sanctuary? How did it compare?
I haven’t seen a sloth in captivity and I don’t think I could’ve had a closer encounter anyway. There is no awe, no surprise in coming up to an animal’s enclosure and finding it there. But in the wild, an animal has to choose to approach you and it feels incredible.
Animal tourism has become a big thing over the years. Have you had any experiences that looking back on, you feel weren’t very ethical, you perhaps wouldn’t do again or any that you wouldn’t recommend to other, what was it and why?
When I went to India, to Kanha National Park about 10 years ago, a lot of tiger watching was done from the elephant back. The reason for such an unusual method of transportation was that the Tigers did not mind the elephants approaching them in the thick forest. Plus the vehicles could get there anyway. Now, I would’ve declined the opportunity to ride the elephant into the forest. For one thing, we all know how cruel the elephant taming process is. It is appaling. Plus, it is probably not a good idea to disturb the Tigers during their resting time. There are always opportunities to see them out and about on the grassland.
What advice would you give other travellers looking to see these animals in the wild for themselves?
Sloths are quite easy to see in Costa Rica’s National Parks. Manuel Antonio, Monteverde, Corcovado and Tirimbina are all good places for spotting sloths. The Hoffman’s two-toed sloth is nocturnal. It is seen most frequently on spotlighting night walks. The three-toed sloth is more diurnal in habit and can often be spotted in Manuel Antonio National Park during the day.
Do you have any advice on being an ethical traveller?
I personally try to follow the ‘leave no trace’ policy when visiting wild places. As individuals, we have limited options for changing things for the better, but we should aim at not making things worse. Every bit of plastic we bring with us to the wilderness has the potential to end up swallowed by an animal; every harmful chemical we wash into the water or the soil can get absorbed by a frog’s water-permeable skin. So, what each and every one of us can do is take all our rubbish back with us, avoid products containing harmful chemicals, such as DEET-based insect repellents, and stick to the designated trails to minimize disturbance to the animals’ habitat. In other words, leave no trace of our visit.
Our series of stories about ethical wildlife encounters aims to show people that you can see wildlife without putting effecting their lives. If you love more stories like this, be sure to head over to The wildlife Diariesbecause there’s plenty more to indulge in there!
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