+
upworthy
Most Shared

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.

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

But what if it was all just ... gone? Not like gone gone, but melted?

Keep ReadingShow less
Modern Families

‘Hard pill to swallow’: Mom shares why some adult children don’t talk to their parents

"How your kids treat you when they are no longer in need of food and shelter, is a direct reflection of how you made them feel when they needed you to survive."

Parent and child deal with the pain of estrangement.

Even though humans are biologically hard-wired to form strong attachments to our parents, in many cases, these relationships become estranged as the children age. A recent poll found that nearly 1 in 4 adults are estranged from their families.

Six percent are estranged from their mothers and 26% have no contact with their fathers. It’s believed that these days, more children are comfortable distancing themselves from their parents because it’s good for their mental health.

“I think it relates to this new desire to have healthy relationships,” Rin Reczek, a sociology professor at the Ohio State University, said, according to The Hill. “There might be some cultural shifts around people being allowed to choose who is in your family. And that can include not choosing to have the person who raised you be in your family.”

Keep ReadingShow less

It's rare enough to capture one antler being shed

For those not well versed in moose facts, the shedding of antlers is normally a fairly lengthy process. It happens only once a year after mating season and usually consists of a moose losing one antler at a time.

It’s incredibly rare for a bull moose to lose both at the same time—and even more rare that someone would actually catch it on film.

That’s why shed hunter (yes, that’s a real term) and woodsman Derek Burgoyne calls his footage of the phenomenon a “one-in-a-million” shot.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Loretta Lynn's granddaughter wows 'American Idol' judges with raw original song

Emmy Russell's original song "Skinny," featuring lyrics about body image and eating disorders, nearly brought everyone to tears.

America Idol/Youtube, Promotional image of Loretta Lynn/Wikipedia

Emmy Russell (left) and her grandmother Loretta Lynn (right)

Emmy Russell, granddaughter of country music icon Loretta Lynn, proved that she was an artist in her own right during a recent episode of “American Idol.”

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Nashville auditioned in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan during the show's Feb. 25 episode, during which she opened up about wanting to not live in her grandmother’s shadow.

"She's one of the biggest country music singers of all time, but to me she's just Grandma," she said, adding "I think I am a little timid, and I think it is because I want to own my voice. That's why I want to challenge myself and come out here."

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Jimmy Fallon asked his viewers if they've ever been caught red-handed. Here are 15 of the best responses.

You can’t lie about it, you can’t take it back, all you can do is pray for forgiveness.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images


There is nothing worse than being caught in the act when you're up to no good. You can't lie about it, you can't take it back, all you can do is pray for forgiveness.

"Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon asked his viewers if they had ever been caught red-handed and their responses on Twitter were hilarious.

Here are 15 of the funniest and/or most embarrassing Tweets.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Her mother doesn't get why she's depressed. So she explains the best way she knows how.

Sabrina Benaim eloquently describes what it's like to be depressed.

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother."

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother" is pretty powerful on its own.

But, in it, her mother exhibits some of the most common misconceptions about depression, and I'd like to point out three of them here.
Keep ReadingShow less