Coming Right At Them
He felt his heart beating in his chest, it was coming straight for them. He knew what he had to do to protect his son. If only they had known the flash of the camera would set it off.
The grey creature paddled at tremendous speed. Then he saw the large claws break the surface with each stroke. He knew things were about to end badly.
Austin Cornell lived a regular life in the busy city of Salvador, Brazil. He worked an honest job as a plumber and enjoyed coming home to his teenage son – Carlos.
Austin had no idea what was waiting for him in his favorite spot and would have him fearing for the safety of his son.
Austin knew Carlos loved going out to a nearby lake to fish. It just so happened that a tour was taking place in the area and going through their favorite spot. Austin felt that this would really help him bond with his son.
But he had wasn’t aware that there would be something in the lake that was never there before. It would send a shiver up his spine and have him regretting what he had done.
The tour would be an intimate one of only 10 people not including the guide. They would take a riverboat down the river and photography was allowed. Something that Carlos loved as a novice wildlife photographer. It was his passion and he hoped one day it would grow into a profession.
But neither of them knew that one innocent picture would escalate a situation that was already nail-biting.
The lake that the riverboat was going to stop at along the way was a spot familiar to Austin and Carlos. The two loved fishing ever since Carlos could hold a fishing pole. But with Carlos new found passion for wildlife, they felt that the tour was the perfect thing to give them more perspective around “their” lake.
But something would be waiting in the lake for them that even caught the tour guide off guard.
Even though Austin enjoyed taking his son to the lake he knew they always had to be careful. There were two rules when they were out on the lake. 1. Never swim in the water and 2. Never stay after dark.
There were many rumors about the lake that would raise the hair on anyone’s neck.
There were countless rumors surrounding the lake that had turned to legend over the years. Anyone that warned Austin was met with the same reply, “I don’t believe in ghost stories.”
But he knew that he would regret forgetting the legend once he was face-to-face with the rumor they had talked about.
Booking The Tour
Austin booked the riverboat tour for him and his son. Once Carlos found out he was over the moon. He would bring last year’s birthday present, an expensive camera for wildlife photography.
But if he knew that his son’s downfall would be that camera, he would have made sure he didn’t bring it.
Fast forward two weeks and the two were now sitting on the riverboat with excited grins on their faces. Austin loved seeing his son so happy and excited about spending time with him.
But when the guide saw Austin’s camera he shook his head and told him he couldn’t take photos. Austin thought that was ridiculous but once he understood the reason he would understand.
Getting To The Lake
The riverboat eventually got to the lake and Carlos excitedly took photos of anything and everything he could. But when something grey rose up from the water with a dripping coat.
Austin hadn’t noticed it and was looking at the birds on the other side of the boat. When the guide noticed Carlos staring at the creature he warned him to look away and not take the photo. But it was too late. The flash and click of the camera would have Austin fearing for his son’s safety.
The creature seemed stunned by the flash and started moving quicker than he had ever seen something with fur. It moved at incredible speed towards the boat. What had they done? And more importantly, what was the monster?
It was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Austin knew he would have to act quickly once it got to the boat. He could see its large claws break the surface as it paddled through the water. It was time to protect his son at all costs.
Just as Austin prepared himself for the worst the guide put his hand up and laughed. “How can you laugh at a time like this?” Austin belted. The man smiled at him and said, “It’s actually quite harmless, it may be quick in the water but it’s just a sloth!”.
Austin couldn’t believe it, he took a deep breath and calmed down. He had been ready to protect his son and now felt a little silly that he was ready to fight something as peaceful as a sloth.
Although we picture sloths as dopey, slow-moving masses of fur that hang around in trees and pose for cute photographs, there is a lot more to these creatures than meets the eye.
The truth is that sloths, although painstakingly slow-moving in trees and on land, are actually excellent swimmers! This is due to their characteristically long forelimbs.
Sloths use their long, powerful forelimbs to push themselves through the bodies of water they need to cross.
They can move at an astonishing speed of 13 meters per minute – much faster than their usual speed on land, which is just 4 meters a per minute. But there’s an unusual reason for this little-known ability.
While mainland sloths don’t often need to swim, it is a useful ability for the sloths that inhabit the Amazon.
In the Amazon, the forest floors flood yearly, so the sloths have evolved to swim so they can get around easily. This way, they also don’t have to worry about their young, who simply cling to their swimming mother’s back. But that’s not all, they have another surprising skill.
Because sloths eat leaves, shoots, and buds that are not particularly energy rich, they have a very low metabolic rate. Due to sloths’ extremely slow metabolism, they can hold their breath underwater for an impressive 40 minutes!
Austin and Carlos had witnessed something incredible that has rarely been observed in the wild. But where was it going?
Going Past The Boat
The sloth wasn’t even going for the boat after all! It was trying to reach the bank on the other side. Austin and Carlos watched as it crawled onto the bank and immediately started moving at stereotyped sloth speeds.
Who knew they could move like speedboats in water? Carlos let out a small chuckle at the spectacle. But what of the photograph?
Carlos had startled the bathing sloth with his camera’s flash when he excitedly took the photo. Now that the sloth was safely out of the water he didn’t feel bad checking the photograph he had taken.
Carlos showed it to Austin and he couldn’t have been prouder, the photograph was excellently taken. His son really did have a gift.
A Good Day
All-in-all Austin considered it a very successful outing. He put his arm around his son as they watched the sloth slowly move into the forest. They smiled at the beauty of their surroundings.
They knew that whenever they revisited the lake they would feel a special connection to it, even more than they already had.
Unfortunately, two of the six species of sloths are in the red zome on the IUCN Red List of endangered animals.
The maned three-toed sloth is categorized as “vulnerable,” and the pygmy three-toed sloth is “critically endangered.” According to the last official IUCN assessment, there are less than 100 pygmy sloths left in the world. Why?
Because sloths live in forests, they are highly sensitive to what goes on in their environments. They are vulnerable because poaching has decreased their numbers, and their habitats are being destroyed by deforestation.
Humans aside, the greatest threats to sloths are big cats, predatory birds, and snakes. Sloths simply can’t move fast enough to escape predators. So, what can we do?
There are several ways to protect these amazing animals – collectively and individually.
By donating to reputable organizations such as sloth protection projects and educational programs, you can help save sloths right from your own home. If you can’t donate, you can volunteer to help sloth protection programs by organizing fundraising initiatives in your community.