Three sloths have died from the cold after being left in cages in an airplane stranded by snow and ice at Liège airport in Belgium. The animals were transported from Peru to Indonesia with an airline from Qatar.
On January 21, nine sloths arrived at the Belgian airport in freezing temperatures. The animals are used to living in subtropical temperatures.
Due to the severe winter weather, the sloths were left in the plane on the ground for more than 24 hours. When personnel arrived the next day to unload the animals, three of the nine sloths had died at the airport in Belgium.
“It is incredibly sad that these three sloths died of the cold in an airplane. It is unknown to us why the animals were transported. We believe that this accident should be investigated to the bottom. It emphasizes once again that we should not see wild animals as products or commodities,” said Sanne Kuijpers, Wild Animals campaign manager at World Animal Protection Netherlands.
The Belgian government said it would find out who is responsible for the deaths of the sloths and that there would be punishments. So far, the airline and other companies involved are blaming each other.
“We are going to look at the responsibilities and what sanctions should be taken in light of that,” Celine Tellier, the Walloon Minister for the environment, nature, forests, rural affairs and animal welfare, told Bel-RTL radio.
Sloths are slow-moving mammals that are native to Central and South America. They spend most of their time hanging upside down from tree branches.
The animals have long, shaggy fur that provides camouflage and protection from the elements, and they are excellent swimmers. They are herbivores, primarily eating leaves, buds, and fruit, and have a low metabolism, which contributes to their sluggish lifestyle.
Despite their slow movements, sloths are excellent climbers and can move quickly through trees when necessary.