Costa Rica is close to having a new national symbol: the two-toed and three-toed sloth. This would make it the national symbol number 16, after the incorporation of coffee in July of this year.
The deputies of the Environment Commission of the Legislative Assembly affirmatively ruled on November 12th a bill that would create the new national symbol. The initiative will now be voted on in the legislative plenary.
The project, proposed by the deputy of the National Liberation Party (PLN) Yorleny León, would seek to position the species as a ecotourist attraction. “No other animal in our territory has enjoyed such popularity,” says the bill. “The empathy that this animal generates in this context is a very great opportunity to attract more foreign visitors who want to get to know sloths up close,” adds the initiative.
The project received the support of the National Chamber of Tourism, according to the Commission’s report. However, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae) asked for caution with the exploitation of the animal.
Extreme caution is proposed
“Being species that enjoy high popularity, unfortunately they have been abused by the tourism sector and the wildlife management sites themselves, exposing them to poor wildlife management practices,” said Minae in its discretion. At the end of 2019, the Ministry of the Environment launched a campaign to stop selfies with animals, as this can expose them to high levels of stress when tourists approach.
Two- and three-toed sloths have reduced populations in Costa Rica, due to the destruction of their habitat with increasing urbanization and agriculture, according to a recent study from the University of Swansea.
These animals are often victims of electrocution in electrical wiring and also run overs. In fact, sloths represent practically half of the mammals admitted to sanctuaries and rescue centers, according to the criteria of the Minae.
Due to this, the bill asks the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) to establish speed limits that avoid them being run over and to enable “aerial wildlife crossings” by means of cables.
The other national symbols
The other symbols are the national emblem, the flag, the Guanacaste tree, the yigüirro, the purple guaria, the national anthem, the cart, the white-tailed deer, the marimba, the torch, the crests of Chirripó National Park, the spheres. Pre-Columbian, the manatee the national theater and coffee.