5 min read

Wild Sloth Tries To Cling To Her Tree As She Watches People Cut It Down

"This industry is fueled by tourists, many of whom love animals."

With a few swift blows of an ax to the trunk of the tree where she lived, a wild sloth’s life was never the same. 

Heartbreaking undercover video shows the moment a wild animal is ripped from the forest to be sold into captivity and used to entertain tourists, who are often misled to believe the sloths have been rescued.

Sloth clinging to tree in Peru
WAP

The footage, just released by World Animal Protection (WAP), shows a few men going into the forest in Peru to illegally chop down trees in the Amazon rainforest (roughly 80 percent of Peruvian timber exports come from illegal practices like this, according to WAP). When there are animals in the trees, illegal loggers often sell them in wildlife markets to make some extra cash.

WAP

As the 100-foot tree falls to the ground, the wild sloth never lets go.

Sloth stolen from the wild
WAP

She has to be pulled off the dead trunk by one of the men and she keeps reaching frantically around her for anything to hold onto. 

Sloth torn from tree
WAP

The wild sloth is later put in a bag and sold at a market just outside Iquitos, Peru — for just $13 USD — because sloths are an animal tourists love to handle and take pictures with. 

Illegal loggers carrying wild sloth out of forest in a bag
The illegal loggers carrying the wild sloth out of the rainforest in a bag | WAP

“It is ludicrous that this is to fuel the wildlife selfie craze which has become a worldwide phenomenon,” Steve McIvor, CEO of WAP, said in a release. "This industry is fueled by tourists, many of whom love animals and are unaware of the terrible treatment and abhorrent conditions wild animals may endure to provide that special souvenir photo.”

Sloth torn from rainforest and sold at market
WAP

This dark glimpse into the illegal wildlife trade comes after ex-workers at a famous sloth attraction in Costa Rica spoke out last year about neglect and mistreatment of the animals there. While the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica doesn't appear to purchase animals from markets, it was alleged that they were complicit in taking healthy animals out of the wild. 

A sloth at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, where two former workers spoke out about neglect there in 2016 | Camila Dunner and Gabriel Pastor

But there is a beam of light in this dark story: Because such acts are driven by tourists who want to be close to these animals, people can make a real difference just by raising awareness about where animals at tourist attractions really come from. If the demand for wildlife selfies diminishes, more and more animals will get to stay in the trees where they belong.

WAP is also conducting discussions with Instagram about putting a policy in place that helps protect wild animals through regulating selfies posted with them.

Take the pledge to never take a photo with wild animals torn from their homes, and share this story with your family and friends to encourage them to do the same.