Sure they’re cute and all the rage and everything (you’ve seen this footage of actress Kristen Bell totally losing it over sloths on the Ellen DeGeneres show, right?). But don’t be fooled! Sloths have been spinning an intricate web of lies for decades. Why so cunning? You’ll have to ask them. All we know is that during our nearly six months of travel in Costa Rica we saw dozens of sloths and these up-close observations revealed these Top 5 Sloth Lies. Let’s get started with this adorable baby sloth, then get down to some sloth facts.

Baby sloth Jaguar Rescue Center Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

This baby three-toed sloth at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica is cute as hell. But what’s he hiding?

Sloth Lie # 1: Sloths are slow

This is generally true. However, when a sloth wants to move a sloth can gain ground more quickly than you think. Check out this female two-toed sloth, with baby in tow, booking along the telephone lines in the Costa Rican town of Cahuita on her way to a nighttime snack.

Three toed sloth Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

A male three-toed sloth on the move in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

Sloth Lie # 2: There are two-toed and three-toed sloths

No. ALL sloths have three toes. What varies are their fingers. So-called two-toed sloths are blonder in color and nocturnal. So-called three-toed sloths are grayer, have an adorable bandit mask on, and tend to be active during the daytime.

Two-toed v Three-toed sloth Costa Rica

All sloths have three toes. It’s their fingers that vary. It’s a three-fingered sloth, above, and its two-fingered cousin, below.

Sloth Lie # 3: Sloths are rarely on the ground

Um, whatever. We saw sloths on the ground all over the place. Sure, they don’t like it down there since they’re more vulnerable to predators but the idea that sloths only come down to the ground every few weeks is silly in our experience.

Sloth on the ground

That’s a sloth on the ground, a supposedly rare occurance which we managed to see quite a few times in Costa Rica.

Sloth Lie # 4: Sloths are cuddly and adorable

If you like damp, moldy, stinky, bug-infested fur then get ready to snuggle up. Why do you think sloths spend so much time scratching? We wonder if Kristen Bell knows about this…

Three toed sloth Costa Rica Central America

Sloths spend quite a bit of time using their huge claws to scratch their skin which is pretty much always itchy since their fur is damp, moldy, and bug infested.

Sloth Lie # 5: It’s hard to get a sloth’s attention

Want to get a sloth to look you in the eye? Whistle. One of the sloth’s few predators is the harpy eagle whose call is a sustained whistle. Let one rip and any sloth within ear shot will whip its head around to get the source of the sound (you) in view. Eric spent hours playing this trick on a male sloth that settled into a guaruma tree right off the patio of the home we were house sitting in the hills above Playa Matapalo. Never gets old.

sloth costa rica

A male two-toed sloth checking Eric out after he discovered the whistle trick.

Two toed sloth Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

A two-toed sloth taking a nap in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

For more slothy goodness, including a whacked out theory about sloths taking over the world and some truly disturbing sloth “art” (of them, not by them), check this out.

 

Here’s more about travel in Costa Rica