Embrace Life in the Slow Lane at Sloth Fundraiser in Petaluma

Learn the art of chilling out while raising money for sloth conservation.

We humans have a lot to learn from the laid-back sloth. With their sweet, friendly faces and their relaxed approach to life, these adorable tree-dwellers have truly mastered the art of taking it easy.

On August 19, fans of these fascinating creatures are invited to gather at Beaumont Farms in Petaluma for Hanging Out for Sloths, a fundraiser for the Sloth Conservation Foundation (SloCo).

Along with a sloth presentation and silent auction, the event will include locally produced beer, wine and bites, plus live performances by folk music artist Hannah Jern Miller, opera singer Lisa Tenorio, and piano and violin duo Leslie Garman and David Ewart. (Because sloths prefer to spend most of their time hanging motionless from tree branches in Central America and northern South America, the animals themselves will not be in attendance.)

The co-hosts behind this ultra-chill event are leading sloth expert Dr. Becky Cliffe, founder and director of SloCo, and Suzi Eszterhas, an award-winning wildlife photographer based in Petaluma.

Eszterhas became interested in the furry creatures 10 years ago, while shooting a story for BBC Wildlife magazine about a Costa Rican sloth orphanage. When a wild sloth happened to show up at the rescue property, she decided to switch gears and follow the newcomer instead. The organization paired her up with Cliffe, who was doing research on the property, and the duo spent three weeks together observing the female sloth and her baby in the jungle canopy.

“A lot of the time that you’re with sloths is sort of just hanging out, because they spend a lot of time sleeping,” Eszterhas says. While the sloths napped, “Becky regaled me with all these amazing, quirky things about sloths and got me to completely fall in love with them.”

Cliffe also told Eszterhas about the threats sloths face due to loss of habitat. This inspired the photographer to become a sloth conservationist.

“Costa Rica has this ‘green’ image but it’s really getting developed, particularly in the area around the Caribbean where Becky is working,” Eszterhas says. Once a sloth’s jungle habitat becomes fragmented by development, she explains, the animals are forced to come down from the treetops and crawl across roads—making them vulnerable to dogs and traffic.

SloCo aids the sloths by restoring and reconnecting rainforest habitat in Costa Rica, and installing simple rope bridges that allow sloths to safely travel across tree canopies.

Those who attend Hanging Out for Sloths will have a chance to learn more about sloth conservation efforts and hear stories about Eszterhas’ and Cliffe’s adventures tracking and photographing sloths in the jungles of Costa Rica and other countries in Latin America.

“Becky is one of the most entertaining people I know,” says Eszterhas. “She is incredibly quirky and passionate about sloths and sloth conservation. It’s really difficult to be around her and not get excited about sloths.

One of the event’s silent auction items will give the winning bidder the chance to visit wild sloths with Cliffe in Costa Rica. Attendees can also bid on Eszterhas’ wildlife photographs, local wine tasting packages, and more.

“When we first started talking about doing this event,” she says, “I asked Becky, ‘What if Sonoma County doesn’t love sloths as much as we do?’ And she said, ‘That’s impossible, everyone loves sloths.’ And we’re totally finding that people do.”

Hanging Out for Sloths, 3-6 p.m. August 19. Tickets are $75 and include food and drinks. All funds raised will support the Sloth Conservation Foundation. Beaumont Farms, 5580 Red Hill Road, Petaluma, slothconservation.org