Heartbreaking undercover footage has revealed the reality of how sloths are captured before they are hauled off into the wildlife selfie trade. The upsetting video was taken in Iquitos, Peru, and it shows illegal loggers sawing down a tree in order to capture a sloth, all so tourists can take selfies with it.
The terrified animal clings to its tree before it falls. Male sloths usually stay in the same tree for their entire life, whilst female sloths move after giving birth, leaving the tree for their offspring.
After being removed from its home, the sloth was then taken to Belén market to be sold for $13.
World Animal Protection released the video to show the horrific reality behind the wildlife selfie trade.
“This footage is extremely distressing. We know that animals stolen from the wild for use as tourist photo props are kept in filthy, cramped conditions or repeatedly baited with food, causing them severe psychological trauma," World Animal Protection CEO Steve McIvor said in a statement.
“It is ludicrous that this is to fuel the wildlife selfie craze which has become a worldwide phenomenon. This industry is fuelled by tourists, many of whom love animals and are unaware of the terrible treatment and abhorrent conditions wild animals may endure to provide that special souvenir photo.”
An estimated 80% of Peruvian timber exports come from illegal logging, World Animal Protection says, and many illegal loggers make further income by selling wild animals on the side.
Three-toed sloths are a particularly easy target for loggers, due to their famously slow speed. When the tree they're on is cut down, there's little they can do to fend off their captors.
World Animal Protection is calling for people to sign up to their Wildlife Selfie Code in order to tackle the problem. They ask that tourists don't have their photos taken with animals if the animal:
- Is being hugged, held, or restrained
- Is being baited with food
- Could harm you
- Is outside of its natural home