The Ohio couple raced down the Central American beach on a mercy dash for a displaced baby creature in great distress. They had heard the elements raging around their visitor lodge the previous night and knew that the wild weather had wreaked havoc. Then the pair saw the soaked victim of the storm, seemingly motionless on the rocks of the shore, and heard a pitiful noise. Was it telling them that they were too late?
Lori and Dirk Morgan of Morrow, OH, run their own business, called Morgan’s Canoe and Outdoor Adventures, in nearby Oregonia. In addition, up until January 2018, the 50-something couple also had a Central American extension to their enterprise called Morgan’s Jungle Lodge. And it was there, in a remote part of Costa Rica, that the Morgans had an outdoor adventure of their own. What’s more, details of their exploits would swiftly go viral.
The story began on January 15, 2018, at the couple’s visitor lodge on the Osa Peninsula near the eastern town of Puerto Jiménez. By Dirk’s own admission the location is isolated, but the Morgans marketed the property as an ecological destination. In fact, the couple were playing host to a pair of guests that day who had gone down to a nearby beach to explore. But the visitors had made the acquaintance of a local down there who had lost their way and needed urgent help.
Apparently, while the guests had been walking along the shore that morning, they had spotted an out-of-place baby critter on the rocks. When they returned to the lodge owners with the news, however, the Morgans wasted no time. The couple knew that a storm had lashed the coast the previous night and that this animal was probably a victim. As a result, they dashed off down to the beach to do their best for the stranded youngster.
A baby animal separated from its mother and out of its natural habitat would be defenseless on the exposed beach. Not only would it be at the ocean’s mercy, but the infant would be an easy and tasty treat for any passing predators. “I took off,” Dirk recalled in a YouTube video uploaded by USA Today ten days later.
Indeed, it appears that Dirk dropped everything in his haste to help. “I’ve still got my cooking apron on because I was doing bacon that morning,” he elaborated. “I’m literally sprinting down the beach barefoot with a kitchen apron on and a box with a towel in it.” Luckily, the Ohio native also had a camera on him and was able to film the moment he first saw the unfortunate creature.
Dirk reported his discovery to the video distributor ViralHog on January 18, 2018. “We found the rare, young, two-toed sloth that survived the high tide and a storm overnight,” he said. Yet the term for the species is actually a misnomer; you see, two-toed sloths actually have three toes, while they sport two finger digits.
Furthermore, sloths do not walk in the conventional sense. Instead, the animals use their hands to pull themselves along the ground. This is an extremely slow method of locomotion, hence their name and reputation. But in fact, this ungainly way of getting around does not present much of a handicap to sloths, since they spend most of their lives in trees.
Indeed, the critters use their claws to hang upside down from branches, whether they are awake or asleep. Their bodies have adapted to this lifestyle to the extent that a sloth’s fur grows upside down, too. In addition, the pelt attracts algae that gives it a greenish hue and aids with the animal’s camouflage.
However, away from tree coverage a sloth is mostly defenseless; and if the Morgans had not made their mercy dash, the vulnerable baby may not have survived. As it was, Lori and Dirk had to frighten away a couple of canines who were showing a keen interest in the animal.
All the while, Dirk spoke soothingly to the distressed infant, and he told USA Today about what happened next. “It started making that pitiful crying sound, like a baby,” he said. “And it just… it totally melted my heart. I needed to help this poor creature out.” The animal lover described how the seawater of the recent high tide had soaked the young sloth and apparently left him terrified.
The first thing the Morgans did was look around for the sloth’s mom, who was nowhere to be found. Dirk’s camera swept the nearby tree line – but to no avail. Perhaps the storm had displaced her, too. Whatever the case, the baby had apparently escaped the rising tide by clinging to rocks on the beach and was now petrified in position.
But the Morgans knew there was no way they could just leave the infant there. “With no adult sloths in sight, we carefully placed him in a box with a towel,” Dirk explained in the YouTube clip. “Then [we] took him back to the lodge and rinsed the salt water off [his] face.” The couple also cleaned the beach sand out of his eyes.
Yet although they did their best, the Morgans also knew that they could not care for the animal themselves. With this in mind, the pair next sought out expert assistance. Lori’s husband continued, “We then took the baby sloth to the animal rescue center at Tranquility just down the road.”
Dirk concluded, “He seemed to be fine and happy to be dried off and safe.” The Morgans informed news sources that carers at the Tranquility Rescue Center in Puerto Jiménez planned to look after the creature for a while. Apparently when he is strong enough, the sanctuary staff intend to release the two-toed sloth into the wild again.
Meanwhile, the YouTube footage of the baby critter’s rescue has received more than 100,000 views on ViralHog alone. And, as it happened, some people were critical of the Morgans’ decision to delay the rescue by filming the sloth’s distress first. Nevertheless, others appreciated the couple’s altruistic actions and were just as affected by the animal as Dirk seemed to be in his voiceover.
“OMG, that baby sloth is the most precious, innocent thing ever,” one commenter cooed among the plentiful postings of praise. Nonetheless, the Ohio native does not think of himself as a hero. “I think all I did was what any responsible… person would do,” he maintained to USA Today. “[To] rescue a poor animal that obviously had a really rough night.”
However, although the story ended happily for the baby sloth, fate had other ideas for the Morgans. Indeed, there was no good karma for the couple after they came to the poor critter’s aid. Just a week on from the rescue, a fire broke out at Morgan’s Jungle Lodge, and unfortunately the property was razed to the ground. One silver lining, though, is that no-one was hurt in the incident.
However, the fire claimed everything in the lodge and left the Morgans devastated. “We are saddened and shocked at this,” Dirk told Tennessee newspaper The Jackson Sun in January 2018. No-one knows what caused the fire, but the business owners have set up a crowd-funding page to help recover their losses.
The couple have also pledged to donate some of the proceeds of their online appeal to the Tranquility Rescue Center. But what happened to the baby sloth the sanctuary took in? Well, he has now been given the name Guanabana, and apparently he is doing great. In a January 2018 story for The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dirk is quoted as saying, “I feel fortunate that this wonderful little creature touched my life and that I could make a difference in his.”