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

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

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

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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less