Monday, August 9, 2010

Go ahead, climb into the sewer and break my heart

Gentle readers, you no doubt believe that the author of this blog is completely cynical and heartless about our fellow creatures. But despite everything that animals have done to disillusion me, inexplicably there are still certain species that I have foolishly managed to retain a soft spot for.

Take the two-toed sloth. Attentive readers may have noticed that the only major previous appearance of a sloth on this blog involved an adorable baby picture and two forms of the word "cute".

And truly, does it not take a superhuman effort not to coo and giggle at photos such as these?
(Flickr user justonlysteve)

(Flickr user Adam C Smith)

If you can stand it, you can see more photos I've selected here.

Yes, I confess: I have been a collector of baby sloth pictures. What's more I have known some adult sloths personally, and I believed that they were the most mild-mannered and personable of the less-intelligent animals I have met. For example, here's a picture of one not biting me while I feed it a grape:

And here is one just hanging around charmingly posing for a photo:

I have never been anything but personally supportive of sloths: not only have I fed them many grapes and green beans, I even have a book coming out next year with a sloth in the title!

But of course, what a fool I have been. Somehow the sloths knew that it would take a lot to disillusion me, and they have not failed to rise to the challenge. As eloquently summarized by the blog Tetrapod Zoology, a recently published paper reports that some two-toed sloths in Peru

have developed the delightful habit of climbing into an outdoor latrine building, seeking out the latrine contents AND EATING THEM.

The post goes on to quote the article directly, giving this detailed description of one sloth's behavior:

It was scooping with one hand from the semi-liquid manure composed of faeces, urine and toilet paper and then eating from the hand.

Pictures are also provided, the less disgusting of the two being this one:

Note, particularly, the enthusiastic expression on that normally expressionless face.

It is true. For all these hundreds of posts where I have been berating those who don't get it about animal badness, I have been throwing stones from a glass house. Let us hope that I have finally learned my lesson.

Friends, we are all in this together. Be strong, and read the rest of Tetrapod Zoology's report here.

And if anyone wants to pay $37.95 for a copy of the full article and send it to me, just to well and truly rub my face in my foolishness, click here.

UPDATE: A friend of the blog has generously provided this article. The original photos are huge and unmistakably clearly show the sloth actually carrying a BABY into the latrine.

I am considering printing and framing them so I do not forget.

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