Another sloth named Holly Berry has also escaped into the forest several times and was repeatedly recaptured. "Keepers had to swim in the river that separates the forest from the sanctuary to retrieve him," Dunner said.
On the rare occasion when animals were released, it wasn't always kind, Pastor and Dunner said. Nutmeg and her young baby, Cinnamon, were initially taken in after trying to cross a road, despite being perfectly healthy.
When the Sloth Sanctuary decided to release an animal for a taping of the TV show "Ocean Mysteries With Jeff Corwin," Nutmeg was "separated by force" from Cinnamon and dropped back in the jungle without her infant, the vets said. The sanctuary kept her baby.
"[It's] a constant desire to possess these animals," Dunner explained.
Part of the problem, Dunner noted, is that the owners vastly underestimate the animals' capabilities.
"Judy believes these animals don't have any instinct," she said. "She believes with all her strength that these animals will die in nature and prefers to keep them in a cage for life rather than giving them the chance."
Despite the scores of sloths suffering from neglect, the Sloth Sanctuary's population is growing at around 13 percent per year, Dunner and Pastor estimated.
The overcrowding has led to additional problems. Males and females were often kept in pairs, or in adjacent cages, which inevitably led to breeding. Dunner said she believes the dozen or so births she witnessed were illegal.