Welcome to the Sloth Institute, a home for wayward baby sloths.

These sloths didn't have mothers, so this woman became their human substitute.

A sloth’s desire to cling to trees, other sloths, and people might seem adorable, but it’s actually the only way they can survive infancy.

Kermie the Sloth. All photos from Sam Trull, used with permission.


Sam Trull, the co-founder of The Sloth Institute Costa Rica, is deeply aware of this fact.

Since 2013, she’s been in Costa Rica doing everything she can to help rescue, rehabilitate, and ultimately release sloths back into the wild.

Trull and Monster.

Releasing sloths back into the wild is a tough, slow process.

There are many things about a sloth’s physiology that make re-release difficult: Sloths who were babies in captivity never learned primary survival skills from their mothers, and humans still don't know enough about a sloth's biology, ecology, social construct, or instinctual abilities to make up for what the sloths didn't get from their moms.

Locket and Elvis.

But Trull is determined to trudge on because she knows her sloth charges will be happier when they’re free.

"I think there is a big misconception that because sloths are slow and lazy they are okay with captivity … but that couldn't be further from the truth," Trull told Upworthy.

Prior to her work with sloths, Trull worked in primate conservation both in the United States and abroad.

She was introduced to sloths in 2013 when she joined a small wildlife rehabilitation clinic on the Pacific Coast called Kids Saving the Rainforest.


That’s where she met Kermie, a two-week-old baby two-toed sloth who had recently lost his mother.

Trull instantly fell in love and, for the next several months, assumed the vital role as Kermie's mother.

Kermie as a tiny baby sloth.

She cuddled Kermie, fed him, and played with him but ultimately never forgot the goal was to return him to his jungle home. However, she would soon find that his release involved a complicated and comprehensive plan ending in something called a "soft release."

A "soft release" allows sloths to take their time getting acclimated to the jungle before they go off on their own.

It's a concept inspired by the lemur "boot camps" Trull witnessed during her work with the Duke Lemur Center.

Monster the sloth in a basket.

To make the soft release happen, Trull and her team set up a 19-foot-cubed cage near the rehabilitation site where they keep sloths for several months until they appear ready for release.

At that point, the cage door is left open, and the sloths can come and go as they please. "The goal is that they eventually spend more and more time outside the cage and more and more time eating wild foods until they are 100% wild," Trull said.

In 2015, Trull and her team performed soft releases with Kermie and Ellen, another sloth who came to KSTR as a baby.

Monster the sloth eating a flower.

So far, both are doing well in the wild.

Trull's team will keep monitoring their progress, too, including how well they’re integrating with the other wild sloths. But there's also only so much they can do to ensure the sloths' survival.

This is perhaps the hardest aspect of Trull’s job: letting go.

She has witnessed a number of sloth casualties over these past few years, and each one to her, the self-proclaimed Mother of Sloths, has been devastating.


However, since most of the deaths occurred in captivity, they strengthen Trull’s resolve to get all those remaining back to their outdoor home.

Much is still unknown about sloths’ biology, ecology, and sociology, which is why it’s part of The Sloth Institute’s mission to learn and educate.

Pelota the sloth.

While The Sloth Institute works primarily with rescue and rehabilitation organizations like KSTR right now, Trull and co-founder Seda Sejud have turned their focus toward the bigger picture.

They want to give their program more reach, and that requires more research and larger funds, which sometimes keeps Trull away from the sloths for days at a time.

However, even though she’s not hand-raising sloth babies every day anymore, her proximity to the field site allows her to check in on her sloths on a regular basis. And at the end of the day, it all comes back to sloth love, which also happens to be the name of Trull’s new book.

"Slothlove" is filled with beautiful photos Trull has taken on her journey rehabilitating sloths, many of which you saw here in this story.

The book tells the story of Trull's relationships with the many sloths she rescued, some of which are thriving, and some of which sadly did not make it past captivity. Her work is all-consuming, and while it’s never easy, she feels like it allows her to give back in an unquantifiable way.

Trull says her work with sloths has taught her to love unconditionally and absolutely.

Chuck the sloth with his BFF, Ellen.

“They have also taught me to never give up ... that the only way to make progress in life is to persevere through each and every obstacle with the knowledge that another one is coming,” she told Upworthy.

That’s a valuable lesson for all of us.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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