Responsible animal/visitor interactions
Do not participate in animal interactions that do not abide by the WAZA guidelines for responsible animal visitor interactions:
1. Avoid having animals in any interactive experience that would compromise their welfare.
2. Animals involved in direct contact situations should receive appropriate training
3. Make no unnecessary demands on animals and assure that visitors do not provoke or create discomfort or stress responses in the animals.
4. Provide animals with choice of whether to participate or not in the interactions and the ability to leave at will
5. All visitation areas should be of suitable size for species-appropriate needs and have suitable refuge areas for the animals.
6. Any feeding must be regulated to be consistent with the animal’s overall appropriate diet and health. This food must not be the only access to food or the whole diet for the animal and the animal must have choice whether to accept this food.
With respect to Sloths:
Sloths are now the number 1 victims of the global “wildlife selfie trade” and human exploitation is quickly becoming one of the major threats to the survival of wild sloths.
Are any sloth encounter experiences OK?
Yes! Plenty of accredited zoos and aquariums have very ethical sloth encounter experiences available. Here are the top 5 things to look out for:
Do they allow hands-on contact with the sloth?
If so, don’t do it. Sloths do not want to be touched or petted under any circumstance.
Is the sloth moved from it’s enclosure?
Sloths are creatures of habit and do not like big changes in environment. For some species, being moved or taken on a walk outside may be enriching, but sloths get stressed out by this.
Is the interaction on the sloths terms?
If you are holding food out and the sloth comes to take it from you, this is OK and the interaction is on the sloths terms. But if a keeper is having to physically move or disturb the sloth then this becomes stressful.
Does the organization donate to support sloth conservation efforts in the wild?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about this one. Many organizations claim to support conservation efforts but really aren’t doing anything at all. Find out which non-profit they support and check the website of the non-profit to see if the organization is listed as an official supporter.
How many encounter experiences does the sloth participate in each day?
We wouldn’t recommend anything above 1 encounter per day. Many good organizations will even reschedule an encounter if the keeper doesn’t think the sloth is feeling up for it.