Two-fingered sloth mother and juvenile. Credit Suzi Eszterhas
Award winner 2022
Location: Costa Rica

Rebecca Cliffe

Rebecca Cliffe is a British nature conservationist dedicated to protect sloths and their tropical forest habitat in Costa Rica. She moved across the world to work together with local communities to understand more about the elusive lives of these slow, charismatic creatures.


When Rebecca first started working with sloths more than ten years ago, very little was known about these unique mammals, yet rescue centres across Central and South America often received them into their care. Rebecca committed herself to finding out more about these tree-dwellers and embarked on a long-term field study to learn more about wild sloths in Costa Rica. For six years she trekked through the dense tropical forests in search of the sloths, which are hard to find due to their slow nature and impressive camouflage. Rebecca persevered and her study provided important insights into the lives of sloths in Costa Rica. With the newly acquired knowledge she developed the first ever sloth rehabilitation and reintroduction protocol and set up the Sloth Conservation Foundation. Through this foundation Rebecca creates alliances with local communities, land owners and businesses and has set up various programmes dedicated to wildlife conservation. Together, an area of over 40km2 has been reforested, more than 100 wildlife bridges have been installed and many school children have been educated about the importance of nature conservation.

Vision and approach

Rebecca believes that to protect sloths, you need to understand them. She has spent years in the forest, studying and monitoring the species and the threats to their existence. With her growing team at the Sloth Conservation Foundation, Rebecca implements the knowledge she acquired over the years and works with communities, businesses and the government to develop sloth conservation strategies that are mutually beneficial for both people and wildlife.

Rebecca Cliffe releasing a brown-throated three-toed sloth wearing a “sloth backpack” tracking device. Credits Suzi Eszterhas

Impact of the Future For Nature Award

With the FFN Award prize money Rebecca will:

  • Initiate a scat detection dog programme to facilitate and improve the study and monitoring of wild sloth populations.
  • Create the first ‘Wildlife Safe Zones’ in Costa Rica to provide a safe reintroduction area for sloths and other species.
  • Work together with local authorities and businesses to develop infrastructure measures, such as speed limits and insulated power lines, for the protection of wildlife.

Brown-throated three-toed sloth mother and newborn baby (less than 1 week old). Credits Suzi Eszterhas

"In every respect, Rebecca Cliffe has demonstrated superb planning, innovation, endurance and commitment to her objectives of understanding the biology, threats, conservation needs and socio-political environment of sloths."
Brian Huntley, member of the International Selection Committee