Thursday, 26 July 2012



My name is Becky Cliffe and I am a zoologist from the UK and the sloth sanctuaries on-site researcher. I first came to the sanctuary in 2010 on a 12 month research placement through the University of Manchester, and have never looked back.

During those first 12 months here at the sanctuary, I completed the first in-depth research project into captive sloth biology, investigating factors such as food intake, activity budgets, thermoregulation and oestrus cycles in Bradypus variegatus sloths. This project has given us valuable baseline data which we are now using in order to develop and improve the sanctuaries current rehabilitation and release program. The scientific paper we produced from this project is in the process of publication so keep checking back here for updates!

Having now graduated from Manchester with a first class honours, I’m looking to the future and beginning a long-term research project on wild sloths for my PhD. This project will be completed in conjunction with Dr. Rory Wilson of Swansea University and The Sloth Sanctuary. As many of you might already know, we actually know very little about sloths and their ecology. Even the most basic knowledge such as their natural diet still remains largely a mystery - so the biggest problem for the sloth sanctuary has always been trying to conserve an animal without really knowing anything about it. As a result, we struggle to release many of the hand-raised orphans who are brought into us for help.

This project will involve tagging and monitoring the daily activity of wild sloths (Bradypus variegatus and Choloepus hoffmanni) within the extensive protected grounds of the sanctuary. To do this, we will be using a small device designed by Wilson called 'The Daily Diary'. The exciting potential that this technology holds for research has been recognized though Wilson receiving the prestigious Rolex Award for enterprise. Furthermore, these gadgets have now been recognized globally and were even used in the making of National Geographic's largest ever series 'Great Migrations'

The Daily Diaries will constantly collect information; recording for us exactly what our sloths are doing and how much energy they are expending doing it. These devices will even produce a detailed record of the environmental conditions that the sloths are experiencing throughout the course of the day!

We will be combining these little devices with VHF radio transmitters in a specially designed sloth backpack. Thankfully, the harnesses we will be using have automatic drop-off mechanisms built in so we can easily remove the backpack without having to recapture the animal – very handy since sloths don’t like to come down to the ground very much!

Through the use of these devices, we are aiming to gain a better understanding of the sloths daily behavior patterns including their diet, habitat preference and reproductive habits. Furthermore, we hope to formulate estimates for factors such as population densities and ranging patterns.

We hope that by gaining an understanding of how sloths survive in the wild, this will help us to improve our current rehabilitation program and will allow us to develop conservation strategies in order to better protect existing wild populations.

However, in order to do all of this and before we can begin, we need to raise enough funds to cover the costs of our field work and research equipment. Each ‘sloth backpack’ including a Daily Diary, VHF transmitter and harness with drop-off mechanism costs USD $800 (£500)

If you would like to donate and help us achieve this, we have set up a specific research account here. No donation is too small; every dollar is a step closer to reaching our dream!

Alternatively, if you would like to ‘Sponsor a sloth backpack’ for $800 this would purchase an entire reusable unit that we will use for the duration of this project. If you chose to do this, you will get the chance to:

  • ·         Name the backpack (this will appear on the backpack itself as well as in all publications resulting from this research)
  • ·         Receive acknowledgement in all scientific papers that we publish during the project.
  • ·         Receive frequent updates, videos and photos from the sloth wearing your backpack throughout the 3 year study.

If you are interested in sponsoring a sloth backpack, or if you have any questions about the project, please don’t hesitate to contact me at for more information.