VIDEOS: Ironman ‘competition’ raises funds for orphaned baby sloths

A fundraising drive by the Toucan Rescue Ranch in San Josecito de Heredia, north of San José, is more than halfway to its goal thanks to some very unusual sponsored athletes.

For the second consecutive year, the Ranch organized its Sloth Ironman Games to help raise awareness and funds for the orphaned baby sloths it rehabilitates in order to release them into the wild. The Ranch is a licensed rescue facility that works with the Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE) to save injured or illegally traded birds and mammals.

Toucan Rescue Ranch via Instagram

Marketing director Zara Palmer told The Tico Times that the Games have become a fun way for the Ranch to engage with donors and fans of their animals.

“We thought it would be entertaining to do something silly such as a sloth race,” she wrote. “The 2016 World Olympics had just ended. So, we thought, why not create a competition for our sloths somewhat like the Olympics? Thus blossomed the Annual Sloth Ironman Games.”

Watch the sloths’ hotly anticipated Hibiscus Eat-Off Challenge:

Of course, the games do not actually involve any unusual activities for the ranch’s orphaned sloths. Their caretakers simply film them going about their normal activities — which include plenty of enrichment to help them prepare to enter the wild — and Palmer and ranch biologist Pedro Felipe Montero commentate the footage “to give it an ESPN feel,” Palmer explained.

Check out the (very ambitiously titled) 1-Meter Dash:

“After each game, we ask supporters to donate toward their favorite sloth athlete or to the sloth they thought would win the series. This way the games could generate funds while capturing people’s hearts.”

While this year’s Games have ended (watch more here) — Stevie was the big winner this year, followed by Frodo, Gimli and Pippin — the fundraising drive remains open, with just under $1,800 left to go before the Ranch hits its $5,000. Funds raised during the 2017 drive will go toward building a new enclosure at the facility’s release site.

Toucan Rescue Ranch via Facebook

The Ranch, which refers to its orphans’ developmental stages as pre-school through college, says the new enclosure will “reinforce the skills that they’ve learned in high school at headquarters such climbing, eating, sleeping in proper postures, eliminating caretaker contact and growing into a completely independent sloth,” the fundraising website explains.

For more information on the 2017 drive, visit the fundraising site or the Toucan Rescue Ranch Facebook page.