PhD researcher on a mission to save orphaned sloths in Costa Rica

Becky Cliffe, a PhD researcher from the College of Science, has spent the past five years researching sloths at the world-famous Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica. During her time there, Becky has compiled data on a number of poorly and orphaned animals suffering from limb deformities and albinism.

Becky Cliffe with slothThese are genetic problems she believes are caused by pesticides sprayed on fruit crops and loss of habitat which has resulted in inbreeding.

Becky said: “Many people love sloths and find them very cute and cuddly but they don’t know what problems they’re facing. As consumers people want to help but don’t realise the impact of buying products which have been sprayed with pesticides. It’s only until you go out to the rainforests that you see the affect it’s really having.”

Pictured: Becky with a sloth in Costa Rica

Becky is now sifting through the data as a part of a long-term investigation into sloth genetics and habitat in a bid to protect future generations.

With no financial backing for the project, Becky turned to online crowd-funding website Indiegogo to raise the money needed for basic lab equipment to process the data.

She smashed the $15,000 target, and can now give the funds to Dr Sofia Consuegra del Olmo, Associate Professor in Biosciences at Swansea University, to conduct the tests.

Baby sloth with malformed jaw

Pictured: baby sloth with malformed jaw

Becky said: “I’m very lucky to be working with Sofia – she’s a big deal in the world of conservation genetics.”

Since 2010, Becky has completed the first in-depthresearch project into captive sloth biology and is spearheading a long-term investigation into the ecology of wild sloths through The Sloth Backpack Project.

Becky admitted that she now has to get to grips with the data she’s amassed in the last five years to complete her PhD, before returning to Costa Rica and her beloved sloths.

She said: “It was so hard to leave the jungle – I plan on going back out there. My dream is to set up my own sloth conservation foundation.”

 Find out more about the work of the Sloth Sanctuary


Images courtesy of Becky Cliffe/ Caters News Agency