“They Make Lousy Pets!”


sloths as pets

In Big Demand – Sloths as Pets

They are definitely cute and appear docile and laid back.  But they are difficult to care for, and they make “lousy pets” proclaims zoologist  Lucy Cooke. She recently went undercover in an investigation with ABC Nightline News, traveling to Columbia to help expose just how big and troubling the illegal wildlife pet trade is becoming, and particularly about how one type of animal was being affected.  ABC Nightline reported that the wildlife trade is the third largest illegal trade in Columbia, with over 60,000 animals trafficked last year.

Right now, the sloth is the hottest-selling animal in the wildlife pet trade.  Their slow movement, along with their teddy bear like face and their everlasting smile, make them appear to be the perfect pet.  But as Lucy describes in the undercover video, they are extremely hard to keep as pets.  It’s hard to guarantee they will survive or thrive once they are taken out of their natural habitat.  They have a very complex dietary requirement consisting of a wide array of more than forty plants.

What the Investigation Discovered

In the Nightline investigation, Lucy goes on location to see how these animals are traded.  In the video, a trader shows them a mother sloth with her two young, scared babies who are tightly clinging to her.  It broke Lucy’s heart to see the sloths in this situation (and it really broke our hearts at Wagbrag too).  But here’s the video spoiler – Lucy and Nightline staff had to make a difficult decision. They were in a precarious situation so for their own safety, they “bought” the mother and her babies – and, to our relief, she releases them in a location where they are free and safe.

Lucy has written a New York Times bestseller called “A Little Book of Sloth”.  Also, she is a National Geographic Explorer (what could be cooler!?!).  She is known for supporting the kinds of animals that some may think are “creepy” or “ugly”.  But many of you may be most familiar with the adorable video that she created at the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica – the video went viral across the globe.  Here’s the video:

So, the sloth’s popularity has boomed thanks to their cuteness.  The sloth is considered an “exotic” pet, therefore you have to do your research in order to know what your state AND city ordinance laws are regarding owning an exotic pet.  Being allowed to “own” a pet is very different than being capable of appropriately “caring” for a pet.  Unfortunately many people get in over their heads, and the exotic pet becomes too much to handle.  Wagbrag’s opinion – enjoy the sloth videos and shows like Animal Planet’s show “Too Cute! Baby Sloths” – but let the sloths live in the wild – not as a pet in your home.

Should people own sloths as pets?  Tell us your opinion – we’d like to hear from you.

Photo: Courtesy of Matt MacGillivray via Flickr (CC by 2.0)


WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.