Sloths & The Pet Trade in America

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In the Middle East there are plenty of instagram accounts where the Middle Eastern rich have a crazy array of pets. But they are not alone in this, it’s certainly easy over there but in the US it is just as simple (state dependent). In fact you can also get pretty much any pet that you wish for in the good ole Westernised USA too.

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Last year I visited Big Cat Rescue in Florida with my good friend and now co-worker Jessica James of ICARUS. If you get a chance to go you should, they are really doing conservation and animal care the right way. One thing I was shocked to learn on my visit there that there are more tigers living in people’s backyards in Florida than in the wild. How is that even a thing?? If your tiger escapes you don’t even have to notify your neighbours!! People have literally woken up with a stray tiger in their back yards. This is just an example of the craziness of the pet trade in America. A tiger…as a pet…

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So clearly you can have anything from a tiger to a kangeroo to a sloth as a pet. Nearly all of these will have been stolen from the wild for the pet trade (or for Zoo’s – this still happens!) or they come from dubious ‘breeding programs’. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that this is not ok. Either these animals are taken directly from the wild for immediate sale or they are implemented in a breeding program straight off the ship. These places are akin to puppy mills where their young will be taken and sold off at the youngest age possible and then bred again. With Sloth babies you can earn a cool $2000-$5000 per Sloth. Looking at you Oregon “sloth sanctuary” by the way. This delightful place has been researching Sloths for 20 years and yet doesn’t have a single scientific paper to it’s name. Suspicious already. Not only that but they have over FOUR HUNDRED Sloths in their care and allow their guests to have Sloth SLEEPOVERS. Sloths are classed as dangerous mammals in zoos and having worked with both wild and captive Sloths for years I can categorically say that this is not a good idea, not just for the animals but also the people who are paying to do it. The ‘sanctuary’ owner is well known for selling Sloths on forums and considering Sloths are not native to Oregon, guess where they get their Sloths from. Yep, the wild. Most of the animals won’t survive the journey and some will die once they reach the shores of the USA. It amazes me that this country was once seen as a land of freedom, but for these animals it will be a new prison from their old jungle homes. This kind of makes my blood boil, especially as this place is perpetuating itself to be a conservation center.

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I also find it confusing that people calling themselves “conservationists” can have a sloth as a pet as well (or other exotic animals). Last year I saw some articles and a Buzzfeed list on these guys. First I was annoyed that my friends baby, Daisy, would not be the first baby to meet a Sloth, but then I thought about it and realised that they have a Sloth… as a pet. They are apparently Sloth conservationists by the way but, again, have a pet Sloth. They also seem to like dressing it up in human clothes and making it wear flower hair clips, super natural right? This one makes me sad more than angry, as lovers of Sloths in the wild they should know better. Unless conservation is actually now about taking animals from their natural habitat? As much as I would love to have a Sloth as a snuggle buddy they would a) hate it b) be miserable and c) THEY’RE WILD ANIMALS NOT A TOY! Most of the people who seem to be writing about having a Sloth as a pet and giving people advice, even more worrying, also seem to have no idea about Sloths in the slightest. I came across this beauty earlier who suggests that Sloths love to play peek-a-boo and have parasites. I just…can’t.

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Like Slow Loris’s who have their teeth removed for the pet trade often causing infection and death, Sloths also suffer a similar fate. Usually their claws are removed so they don’t hurt their new owners. SLOTH FACT: Sloth claws are actually BONE. They are basically having their fingers removed so they will make cuddly pets. Remember I mentioned that most of the animals will die when transported from the wild so it’s best to ship more? That death rate is around a 80-90% chance of not making it, all so you can have a cool pet.

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Please remember that even if you are buying an exotic animal from a breeder that the original ones will ALWAYS have come from the wild. You are literally supporting animals being stolen from their natural habitat just so you can have a status symbol. Spend your dollars on visiting them where they live and seeing them in the wild and not taking them for your own selfish enjoyment and pride. They may be very cute but that doesn’t give you the right to make them an effective prisoner.

Sarah

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