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The sloths of Costa Rica

Don't call them lazy. They're just digesting.

“I’m not lazy, I’m digesting”

Avey hopes to spread sloth knowledge beyond her local community — currently, six of the sanctuary’s sloths are on loan to the Dallas World Aquarium. Avey also intends to write a how-to book on sloth husbandry, to share the knowledge she has learned largely by trial and error.

She can start by explaining what makes sloths sleep all the time. Some reports say they can snooze for more than 15 hours at a stretch, although a scientific study suggests that, when in the wild, those spans of time are shorter.

Avey attributes it to the sluggish nature of sloth digestion, which involves moving food slowly through a large multi-chambered stomach. “My veterinarian calls them ruminants that don’t ruminate,” she says, referring to cud-chewing mammals like cattle, camels or deer.

Speaking for the sloth, she says, “my favorite saying is, ‘I’m not lazy, I’m digesting.’”

And who said a sloth never moved? Almost once a week, they climb down their tree for a bowel movement. During this time, moths living off the algae in the sloth’s fur fly off and lay eggs in the animal’s dung, only to later fly back up to the tree to find their host (a relationship that prompts Avey to recount a tongue twister about the “moth that lives on the sloth eating the sloth’s moss”).

Above all, Avey wants to set the record straight. “My husband says when Buttercup found us, she found a mouthpiece to talk about her kind," she says. Sloths had "a pretty bad press agent in the beginning when they were named after a deadly sin.”

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