• Look at that thing and tell us the natural world isn’t a prodigiously creative place. (Getty)
Well, they're saving the world, for one.
By
Evan Valletta

19 Dec 2017 - 12:44 PM  UPDATED 19 Dec 2017 - 12:44 PM

In new SBS VICELAND doco Sloths Save the World, Thomas Morton heads to Panama to do something many of us daydream about but know will probably never happen: hang out with sloths.

Travelling to Central America for the sole purpose of tracking down a sloth and spending a few days experiencing its extraordinary brand of chill would be completely acceptable, but Morton’s there to investigate a curious rumour – one that has to be seen to be believed.

 

Sloths – they’re a special kind of cute

You know a species of animal is cute when Disney turns them into a scene-stealing character, but real sloths are far cuter than any animated creation. Pretty much everything about sloths scream cuteness, but not that cliché, cutesy-wutesy cuteness you find with kittens or baby rabbits.

Their cuteness is offbeat, almost alien – as if three or four starkly different animals collided at lightning speed, merging into a creature nobody would ever have thought to design. 

Their tiny, dopey faces suggest mischievousness, like they could pull the mother of all pranks or tell one hell of a dirty joke if they were able to muster up the energy. Yet at the same time they are almost unbearably huggable, with their extra-long monkey arms and torsos that somehow resemble both a dog and a bear.

 

They also turn laziness into an artform

All humans have the potential for laziness, which is probably why we find it such an undesirable trait when demonstrated in excess by other people. But when it comes to sloths, you’ve gotta admire their commitment to that state of being.

They hang around all day on tree branches, often upside-down, resulting in that sweet rush of blood to the head. They only ever eat the odd leaf when they can be bothered extending an arm further along the branch, and only ever climb to the ground once a week, in what seems like super slow motion, to go do poo poo.  

It’s not like they could apply for a tax file number and go work at Aldi, so who are they hurting? Nobody.

 

In fact, their laziness could help humans in ways we never imagined

Sloths are so fantastic at playing statue that their fur becomes a kind of supermarket for microorganisms. They’re so bravely undeterred by creepy crawlies and have not even remotely enough energy to groom themselves that over time their hair dreads together with rare kinds of mould, algae, fungus and various insect nests.

Sounds disgusting, but fascinatingly, some of these growths can only be found on a sloth, and Morton meets various scientists who hold the theory that the laziest creatures on Earth might hold the key to treating a slew of fatal diseases currently plaguing human beings.

 

Watch Sloths Save The World on Thursday 28 December at 9pm on SBS VICELAND.  

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