Rainier Oregon has the largest sloth sanctuary in the United States, possibly even the world. At this slow-paced wonderland, guests can learn all about sloth conservation, biology, take pictures, touch, and even sleep with the sloths. Dedicated to rescuing and researching all things sloth-related, the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center (ZWCC) just about has it all…except a parking lot or gift shop.
That’s because ZWCC and its constituent facilities, the Sloth Captive Husbandry Center, and The Sloth Center, are not a “for public entertainment zoo.” On this point they are very clear. Rather they are a highly specialized research center that has evolved and grown into the niche it currently occupies.
What started as a rescue center for sloths displaced by rainforest habitat loss, has come to center more on husbandry, research, and public education. According to the website, their “primary focus is on the long-term physical, mental and emotional care of captive wildlife populations.” Of captive wildlife populations, theirs is the largest reproducing population outside of the wild – most of their stinky friends have never seen a human outside of their care-takers.
Though they put their animals first, education is part of their mission, and as such they offer the opportunity for people to meet and learn about sloths at their facilities. Sloth enthusiasts can opt for either an educational guided tour or a full on sloth slumber party. Whichever you choose, due to Federal and State law, insurance policies, and ZWCC permitting and practices, your party will likely be the only one there at that time, an experienced guide will be with you always, and much of that time will be quiet time.
However, if you go, you will leave much more knowledgeable about sloths, sloth conservation and husbandry, and the plight of the sloths in the wild. You will also get an experience that will soon be lost to all but a very small group of researchers – the opportunity to touch a sloth. That’s right, get your touching while you can because ZWCC expects changes in Federal regulations to make the public touching of wildlife a thing of the past.
By Anthony Vitale