One cannot deny how popular our arboreal friends have become in recent years, and rightfully so! The sloth is a cute animal that always appears to have a smile of content on its face. They are tremendously slow-moving but relatively quick swimming in which they swim a form of backstroke. Sloths can turn their head almost 360 degrees; they go to the toilet once a week, and their prehistoric ancestors used to be seven meters tall and would strip trees totally bare of leaves and branches in a single meal!
One more thing, in Brazilain Portuguese, the sloth is known as a bicho preguiça – literally ‘lazy animal’.
A Commitment to Animal Welfare
Today there are not many places that you can see a sloth in the wild. Once found all over the Americas, it now mostly found in certain parts of Central and South America. This article is about where to see a sloth in the wild while in Brazil. You have likely seen photos on Instagram of tourists cuddling sloths, but the truth is that this is not good for the poor sloth. It means they have been kidnapped from their native habitat and forced to live amongst humans (likely in a cage). Worse yet, according to a study by World Animal Protection, a sloth caught from the wild will not live longer than six months. Just as it is not nice to have a photo taken with a drugged-out tiger in Thailand, it is also not nice to have a photo taken with a captive sloth, especially when you know it will die because of it.
But the great news is that there are ways to see them in the wild, which is actually a much more exciting experience for you and much less traumatic for the sloth. Here are three places to visit where you can see a sloth in the wild. I have also included links to the best local tour guides endorsed by World Animal Protection.
1. Puranga-Conquista Sustainable Development Reserve: Rio Negro (river), Amazonas
This is a reserve dedicated to the conservation of Amazonian fauna and flora. The indigenous Baré and Kambeba peoples also live traditional and sustainable life here. The region is home to the Pale-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus tridactylus) and the Brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus). Multi-day tours are conducted out of Manaus by Braziliando. The tour will take you to the Puranga-Conquista, where you will stay in an indigenous village. Local guides will take you on wildlife tours into the sloth habitat—a truly enriching experience.
2. Montanhas do Tumucumaque National Park: Amapá State
Montanhas do Tumucumaque National Park is part of the Amapá biodiversity corridor created by the Brazilian government and WWF in 2003. It is the world’s largest tropical forest national park. Being deep in the Amazon forest, the park has no roads to traverse, so transportation relies on the river system’s speedboats. The diversity of wildlife is outstanding. Here you can see the Pale-throated three-toed sloth and jaguars, black spider monkeys, giant armadillos and anteaters. There are also several ancient indigenous archaeological sites with beautiful rock art.
Estacao Gabiraba is a tour operator that is partnered with local communities and NGOs. They organise a seven-day tour of the national park, which starts in the city of Macapa. The itinerary is full of wildlife walks where you can see a sloth and many other animals. You will also swim in crystal clear pools and waterfalls, visit indigenous communities and explore great museums. Your day ends with local food and a hammock to sleep in.
3. Cristalino Private National Heritage Reserve (PNHR): Mato Grosso
Cristalino Lodge is a Private National Heritage Reserve (PNHR) established to protect the region’s biodiversity. The reserve neighbours the Cristalino State Park in the Southern Amazon of Mato Grosso state. It is said to be 1.3 times the size of Manhattan Island, NY. Whereas the first two locations were not for the faint at heart, Cristalino PNHR provides the best of both worlds – jaw-dropping natural wildlife and comfortable to luxurious eco-accommodation.
The reserve provides a habitat for the Brown-throated three-toed sloth and Linnaeus’ two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus). There are actually hundreds of mammals, birds, plants, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians living in Cristalino. If you are interested in seeing what else you might see, check out these detailed species lists.
These guys offer heaps of group trails and private trails where they will take you to the locations where you can see a sloth and other birds and mammals.
If you love sloths and are visiting South America, you must choose one of these fantastic locations to see a sloth in the wild. It will be a sustainable, ecologically friendly experience you will remember for your entire life!
**Please note Gatewaytobrazil.com has no affiliation with any of these groups in any way. We try to find the best information available for our readers. So please conduct your own research before making any bookings or before trekking out to see them.