Costa Rica 2013, Part 7.

I bet you thought I forgot, right? I drifted off into a nap and when I awoke I failed to remember to blog about the sloths, eh? Well, you are incorrect. I was swamped with work. It ate my soul. Many a day went by where I had to choose between eight more minutes of precious sleep or a shower. It was not fun. But now the deadlines are slowing up, so I can return to bringing you the quality vacation reporting you have come to expect from this fine establishment. So here’s what you’ve been waiting for.

The Sloth Sanctuary! (Or as I like to call it, The Slorphanage.) The Moomins and I pulled up at the gate and we were greeted by a giant sculpture of what sloths looked like in the time of the dinosaurs. Short answer: they were big.

sloth-statue sloth-sign

We then met the lady in charge, an American woman named Judy who married a Costa Rican man and has lived and run this hotel / sanctuary for several decades. As we were talking to her in front of the reception area I saw a hanging wicker chair. Now, most people wouldn’t give two thoughts to a hanging wicker chair, but I happen to know that Princess Buttercup, the mascot of the sanctuary and the very first sloth they rescued twenty years ago, lives in a wicker chair. So I freaked out a bit. I asked Judy’s daughter Ursula, “Ummmm, is that Princess Buttercup over there?” and Ursula said cheerfully, “Why yes, that’s Her Royal Highness. Why don’t you go say hi?” I don’t think Ursula had finished the sentence before I sprinted across the room. Princess Buttercup was glorious.

princess-buttercup4 princess-buttercup2 princess-buttercup1

I startled her a little bit, so she awoke and paid about thirty seconds of attention to me.

princess-buttercup6

I got some footage just as her disinterest in me manifested itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byIO5g2nUmI

Princess Buttercup is a three-fingered sloth. There’s a movement to call them “three-fingered” and “two-fingered” instead of “three-toed” and “two-toed” because all sloths have three big claws on their back feet. It’s the front claws that matter. I learned so much about sloths. They are fascinating and extremely bizarre. Here’s some of the things I learned.

  • Three-Fingered Sloths and Two-Fingered Sloths have enough incompatible components that they are unable to cross-breed. It’s like the difference between ostriches and emus. They’re both large, creepy, dinosaur-like flightless birds, but they can’t make babies. Same with sloths.
  • The Two-Fingered Sloth eats fruit and leaves and bugs. The Three-Fingered Sloth eats fruits and leaves, no bugs. Twice a day someone comes over to Princess Buttercup’s hanging chair and clips fresh leaves to the side of her chair. She doesn’t have a water bowl or anything. She gets almost all her moisture from the leaves and the occasional green bean or piece of fruit.
  • Sloths poop once a week. They come down the tree and goes to the bathroom at the base of the tree. Scientists don’t really know why. There are a few theories. One, if the sloth poops from the canopy the waste will hit a million leaves on the way down, creating a ruckus and giving away the sloth’s position to possible predators. The other reasoning is super-weird: there is a moth that lives in the sloth’s fur, a “sloth moth” if you will, and when the sloth goes down to the base on the tree, the moth has enough time to lay its eggs in the poop and then hop back onto the sloth on its way back up.
  • The sloth’s diet is so low in nutrition, they are practically cold-blooded. Seriously. It’s really hard for them to maintain their body temperature. In fact, it was 80 degrees when we visited and the baby orphan sloths were in incubators with blankies because they have to be 84 degrees. Awwww.
  • Both sloths don’t really have collar bones and have tons of extra vertebrae in their necks, so they can rotate their heads all over the place and spin their arms and legs around to grab onto whatever branch might be near them. Since they have crazy fur that grows in all which ways it can sometimes be hard to figure out which way is up. They’re like an slow, non-threatening version of the chick in The Exorcist when she comes down the stairs backwards.
  • Of the 148 sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary, only about 18 are Three-Fingered Sloths. That’s because Two-Fingered Sloths will hang out in trees near people and therefore if they are damaged, they are more often found by good Samaritans and brought to the slorphanage.

First of all, when we arrived we checked into our room (“Harpo”):

sloth-room

And in our hallway was something on the wall, up there, on the right. Could it be?

hallway-bat1

Yay! A little smiling bat companion. I asked Ursula about him and she said, “Yeah, that’s where he’s decided to live.”

hallway-bat2

Then Ursula said, “Have you seen the other bats?” and I was like, “There are other bats?? More bats?? Take me to the bats!” They were right outside. The wall-clingers and the ceiling-clingers.

bats1 bats2 bats3

The wall-clingers are Greater White-Lined Bats and the ceiling-clingers are the Proboscis Bat. They were delightful. I don’t know how you can’t like them: they’re cute and they eat bugs. It’s a win-win.

The next morning before our tour of the slothery we went on a hour-long boat ride on the lazy river that is part of the property. First, I took a walk through the garden. It was stunning. The colors and smells were intoxicating. And I saw a neato succulent. Its babies grow on the rim of the leaf and when passersby knock them off, they grow into new plants. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plant that reproduces like that.

plant3

And look at this clingy flat-leaf thing.

plant1

I saw what I thought was a large porcelain crab with a blue glaze while I was taking my morning garden tour. It’s really common there to have lawn ornaments. The ones I saw were made mostly of cement. I really liked this cement anteater.

cement-anteater

Anyway, I assumed the large blue crab was decorative. Then he scuttled halfway into his home and I jumped because hey! not a lawn ornament, very much alive.

blue-crab2 blue-crab1

The Moomins and I made our way to the dock. I loved that the dock had a mirror ball, you know, for any impromptu parties that might break out on this tiny dock in the middle of nowhere.

sloth-dock-mirrorball

We got into the canoe and meandered our way around the area. We saw more crabs, this time coral-colored, and I loved how they looked on those root structures. To me, the roots looked like sopping wet velvet all folded up.

crab4 crab5

We saw a baby crocodile sitting in his burrow that he had dug out. He was about a foot and a half long. Little guy.

crocodile

This cutie-cute bird is called a Flycatcher. I like the little dot on the top of his head.

flycatcher

There were some Howler Monkeys in the trees looking for tasty treats. Periodically they would make their loud powerful gutteral calls and it was strangely soothing. Here’s someone else’s video of what they sound like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHaYQWwCXZw

And here’s a photo I took of them.

howler-monkey3

I saw both types of Jesus Lizard, the brown kind and the totally-fake-couldn’t-possibly-be-real green kind.

jesuslizard1 jesuslizard2

But the bestest thing was when we went under a log that had fallen over. First of all, the log had trees growing on it, which was cool in itself. But underneath, maybe two feet from my head was… snuggling bats!!

bats-tree1 bats-tree2 bats-tree3 bats-tree4

This is a different type of bat from the bats I hung out with above, but I couldn’t figure out what kind these are, so we’re going to call them Snuggling Smiling Fuzzy Brown Bats.

Tomorrow I will show all my pics from the Slorphanage and then we are done.

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