At the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center and the Sloth Captive Husbandry Center in Rainier, Oregon, "sleepovers" are being offered for animal lovers who want to hang out with adorable sloths for a night which is the time of day when these slow, tree-hanging creatures are most active.
ABC 7 picked up the story about the sleepovers, which don't come cheap: it's $1200 for a group of four people, and $300 for each additional person. You get to feed the sloths while hanging out in double-occupancy tenants and talking only in "library voices," and it's not like you're necessarily going to do a ton of sleeping since you may be getting to feed the sloths up to eight times.
On their website the center stresses that these are meant to be educational experiences, not entertainment, and that they are not a zoo. But proceeds from programs like the sleepovers go to help the center's mission, which they claim is to learn sloth husbandry practices for better conservation of the endangered animals as their habitats are destroyed.
Also, sort of frighteningly, the center promises a "bonus" (for as long as Federal Regulations will allow) "brief interactive 'Mystery Creature' intro encounter prior to departure (subject to species change and cancellation without notice)."
A reputable sloth conservation organization, meanwhile, is calling attention to the fact that all may not be as it seems at this Portland-area sloth husbandry outfit.
The Sloth Conservation Foundation has looked into the organization, and they have several major concerns. First of all, where are they getting the sloths and why are they bringing them to Oregon? "Oregon seems like a strange place for a sloth ‘sanctuary,’" they write. "Sloths are only found in the rainforests of Central and South America and... the center claims that they work with logging companies in South America and offer an alternative home for the displaced animals. However, there is a glaring problem with that story. If a patch of forest is indeed being cleared, the resident sloths should simply be relocated to a nearby forest reserve. There is absolutely no need, nor excuse, for adult, wild sloths to be exported to the U.S. for any reason."
Secondly, they say this supposed research center "has published a grand total of zero scientific research papers... Despite having maintained hundreds of sloths in captivity for almost 30 years for 'research purposes.'"
Something to consider when considering their insistence that they are not a zoo.