All Sloths a Swimming

Blog entry written by Sam Trull of The Sloth Institute

A Saving Sloths Together project update:

Sloths are best known for their chill demeanor high up in the trees.  My personal favorite pastime is to watch them scratch their faces while hanging upside down from their feet with such skillful ease.  It brings you to a place where you also feel relaxed…it’s almost as if you can imagine yourself high in the sky alongside them without a care in the world.  But in addition to mastering the art of slow and deliberate climbing, did you also know that sloths are great swimmers?  There is a rumor going around that only three-fingered sloths can swim…but it is not true…both types of sloths (two-fingered and three-fingered) are excellent swimmers!  If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense for sloths to be good at swimming.  Their entire life is centered around conserving energy and taking the path of least resistance.  All of the habitats where they call home have the potential of having bodies of water nearby: mangroves, rivers, lakes and oceans.  To not be able to swim would mean certain death if they happen to fall into any of these waters.  In addition, it is a great way to cross open spaces or travel further distances downstream.  Their ability to swim is instinctual and they also immediately hold their breath as soon as their face goes underneath, they all know these skills from birth…but practice makes perfect and helps to condition them to not be afraid of the water.  

When rehabilitating sloths for release we have to think about their ability to locomote through the forest, including their ability to swim.  So how is this talent affected when a sloth is injured and loses a limb…like an arm?  Socorro is a one armed, two-fingered sloth.  A few months ago she was hit by a car while trying to cross the street.  Rushed to the Toucan Rescue Ranch clinic in Heredia, her life was saved, but her arm was unfortunately lost.  Amazingly, she recovered really well and really quickly.  She was an excellent climber and was eager to get back out into her forest home, so we fitted her with a VHF tracking collar and let her go with our Saving Sloths Together team following her through the forest every day.  However, with the rainy season approaching, the river waters were rising and we became concerned that Socorro may not fare well if she falls into the river.  We know all two-armed sloths can swim…but can a one-armed sloth swim?  

Check out the video below to see the answer!    

What is the Saving Sloths Together Project?

In 2017 Toucan Rescue Ranch and The Sloth Institute came together to form Saving Sloths Together (SST), a Costa Rica wide project seeking to provide greater opportunity for sloths in need. By combining each organization’s skills and knowledge we are able to improve the process of sloth rescue, rehabilitation and release in Costa Rica.  This partnership utilizes scientific expertise, dedication, passion and decades of experience to provide the very best program for every sloth needing help at gaining a second chance at a life in the wild.


  1. Cheryl Boyce says:

    Dearest Sam
    Please give me a update on little Tiny, that baby sloth you were feeding n hopefully saved. XO

    • TRR says:

      We are sure Sam would love to let you know how the sloth is doing. You can reach here by going to TSI’s website!

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