Main content

Brett Westwood and Joanna Pinnock encounter the sloth, now wildly popular but named after a deadly sin. Our changing attitudes to it tell us more about ourselves than the animal.

The dreamy smile of the sloth has made it wildly popular, but once its slowness was condemned and saw it named after one of the seven deadly sins. Brett Westwood and Joanna Pinnock talk to those who really know, understand and live with sloths and ask if we're still projecting our own feelings onto them. Our changing attitudes to sloths tell us more about ourselves than about this harmless animal. Dr Rebecca Cliffe, founder of the Sloth Conservation Foundation and a leading researcher, is in the rainforest in Costa Rica with them right now. She describes how local people feel about them, while she sits under a tree with a sloth at the top.

Joanna Pinnock tries for her own encounter with Marilyn the sloth and her baby Elio at ZSL London Zoo, and experiences the magic of sloths at first hand. William Hartston, author of Sloths: A Celebration of the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammal. explains the vexed history of sloth first as a sin then its next incarnation as a harmless South American treetop dweller named after that sin, and the repercussions for the animal down the centuries. He also shares his opinion on the best sloth in film. And it's not Sid from Ice Age. And the poet Debbie Lim reads her poem Gift of the Sloth, describing other ways in which they deserve our admiration, but again not for the reasons that the current popular image of sloths would seem to suggest.

The Sloth Conservation Foundation is at www.slothconservation.com
Original Producer Beth O'Dea

Archive Producer: Andrew Dawes for BBC Audio in Bristol

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Sun 20 Sep 2020 06:35

Broadcasts

  • Fri 18 Oct 2019 11:00
  • Sun 20 Sep 2020 06:35

Quiz: Extinct or Not?

Quiz: Extinct or Not?

Which of these species have vanished?

Natural History Heroes

Natural History Heroes

Scientists celebrate the pioneers who inspired their work and lives.

Natural Histories Comedy

Natural Histories Comedy

Humorous perspectives on life from the plants and animals in the series.

10 things we got wrong about dinosaurs

10 things we got wrong about dinosaurs

Dinosaur myths, misconceptions and mysteries.