"I could not believe what I was seeing."

By Alison Fox
Updated March 04, 2020
Credit: REDA&CO/Getty

Witnessing amazing animal encounters is one of the best parts of traveling, and seeing natural behavior in the wild can be extra special. That’s exactly what happened when a tour group in Costa Rica came upon a sloth giving birth to her baby — and captured the whole thing on video.

"I could not believe what I was seeing. I was super excited," tour guide Steven Vela told CNN of the experience that happened in late February. "We were at the right moment and at the right time. I guess I will never see anything like that again."

In the video, which Vela posted to Facebook, the sloth’s baby falls from her body as she sits up in a tree, only hanging by the umbilical cord as someone can be heard below gasping “oh my God.” The sloth then grabs her baby around the neck and brings it toward her before taking the infant in close.

The video, which Vela wrote is “something that you don't see every day,” has received 1.2 million views and been shared more than 40,000 times.

Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, the founder of the Sloth Conservation Foundation in Costa Rica, told CNN that being able to actually see this is extremely rare.

"To see a three-fingered sloth give birth is something that very few people have been lucky enough to witness," she said. "Sloths are secretive animals that live high in the rainforest canopy and specialize in camouflage. To just see one in the wild is lucky, but to observe one giving birth out in the open is very special."

It’s important to remember that when you do see an animal in the wild, you leave a safe distance and allow it to behave naturally. If an animal feels threatened — as a moose did when it recently kicked a woman in Colorado as she tried to pet it — it will likely act in self defense.