Did you know that a sloth baby will stay with its mother for up to 12 months? Discover the mysterious lives of sloths with scientist Dr. Rebecca Cliffe and photographer Suzi Eszterhas in the new middle grade nonfiction The Adventures of Dr. Sloth: Rebecca Cliffe and Her Quest to Protect Sloths.
Today author and photographer Suzi Eszterhas joins us to talk about her love of sloths, her greatest sloth adventure, and her hopes for the book. And read on to catch up on some special sloth news!
When did you fall in love with sloths?
The first sloth I ever photographed was a brown-throated sloth. I had come to Costa Rica to photograph some orphan sloths in a sanctuary but I couldn’t believe my luck, when a wild female sloth showed up in the forest surrounding the sanctuary with her newborn baby that was less than a week old. I quickly shifted gears and started following her around the forest, and spent a few weeks doing that with Rebecca. We became best friends and bonded over our love of sloths, and then we hatched a plan to spend the next several years trying to photograph all of the different species of sloths. We’ve done five of the six, but we’ve still got one more to go. Throughout this time I have absolutely fallen in love with sloths!
What is the hardest thing about photographing sloths?
Staying awake! Sloths spend a lot of time sleeping every day and watching an animal sleep tends to make you feel very sleepy. I often find myself dozing while waiting for them to wake up. Luckily Becky is much better at staying awake than I am and is there to wake me up, but not without teasing me!
What’s the greatest adventure you have ever had with a sloth?
Swimming with a pygmy sloth is one of the highlights of my career as a wildlife photographer. Just being in the water with the sloth was an incredibly intimate and exciting experience. In order to photograph this sloth, I swam alongside it in tropical blue water. It really was like a dream… until I swam into sea-grass that had a lot of jellyfish in it which I didn’t even notice because I was so caught up in this sloth. The jellyfish started stinging me all over. I found myself quite flustered being stung while at the same time taking in the beauty of this animal and trying to get the picture right. But it was so worth it!
What do you hope children will take away from the book?
It is my greatest hope that my images and Becky’s incredible story might inspire a child to choose a life outdoors in nature. Whether as a scientist, photographer, or conservationist, choosing a career that works with wildlife is incredibly rewarding. My job has given me great joy and purpose. I strive to teach children to care for our planet, to help save endangered species, and to live lives of kindness.
How did you become a wildlife photographer?
I think I was born interested in wildlife photography. Ever since I can remember this is what I wanted to do. I used to tear the photos out of children’s nature magazines like Ranger Rick and cover my wall with them. My parents bought me my first camera, a little point-and-shoot, when I was 6. I always knew I wanted to work with wildlife, and grew up idolizing Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey. I became an avid bird watcher and started photographing in my backyard and the two things just sort of meshed: my love for wildlife and my photography.
Dr. Rebecca Cliffe has won the Future For Nature Award, one of the most prestigious conservation honors in the world. This award is hosted by the Future For Nature Foundation (FFN) which supports promising young conservationists committed to protecting animals and plants in the wild. Read more about it in this article from the Sloth Conservation Foundation.
Praise for The Adventures of Dr. Sloth
“Eszterhas offers a fascinating glimpse at the work of a scientist currently active in her field. . . . Kids passionate about animal conservation will love this.”—Booklist
“[A] delightful addition to any library, helping readers not just to understand sloths, but to understand why safeguarding them and their habitats is critical.”—School Library Journal
Connect with the author
Suzi Eszterhas is an award-winning wildlife photographer best known for her work documenting newborn animals and family life in the wild. She has published 19 books and is based in California.
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