In response to a documentary called 'Meet the Sloths', an eight part series based on The Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has warned that sloths are not suitable to be kept as a domestic pets. Furthermore, these animals are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international agreement that aims to protect wild animals and plants.
"Although the programme is centred around a sanctuary and means well, we have received many enquiries relating to the keeping of these animals as house pets and we are concerned that this will only increase with the continued broadcasting of this programme," says Ainsley Hay, manager of the Wildlife Protection Unit of the NSPCA. "Keeping a sloth as a pet is extremely cruel and unethical. These amazing and endangered animals are wild animals with very specific needs and do not belong in captivity."
Stimulating pet trade
The NSPCA may have cause for alarm, since other programmes in the past which highlighted the appeal of wild animals have proven to stimulate the wildlife pet trade and this is not only a concern in South Africa, but also internationally. Habitat destruction and the trade in wildlife are the greatest threats facing wild animals and the animal welfare organisation is concerned that sloths will become part of the exotic pet trade.
Sloths are not a domesticated species and do not take comfort from being near humans. They have very specific needs that are difficult to meet in captivity, and a large amount of expertise, time, and money is needed to keep them confined.
"While we do not believe that it is the intention of Animal Planet to promote the pet trade, we also remind the viewers and members of the public that the onus to protect these animals is just as much on their shoulders. Use documentaries such as 'Meet the Sloths' as an educational tool and don't buy into the idea that wild animals can be kept as pets or traded as a commodity," says Hay.
The NSPCA has appealed to the producers of Animal Planet via email to make a statement with each programme aired reminding the public that these animals are CITES protected and do not make suitable pets.