The star slept through most of the session, but Ambien the sloth was nonetheless a hit at TCA on Sunday during her appearance as part of PBS’ portion of the annual summer press tour.
Reporters lined up after the session for a chance for selfies and a quick pet of Ambien, a year-old female who hugged her handler’s stomach as she dozed. She came to the Beverly Hilton to promote docu-series “Nature’s Miracle Orphans,” produced as part of the long-running “Nature” franchise. (The Television Critics Assn.’s strict no-photos policy was given a sloth exception by producers.)
“Miracle Orphans” documents the efforts of naturalists and others who make a point of rescuing orphaned animals, particularly those that are abandoned when their parents are snatched from the wild for profit as part of what producers called “the pet trade.”
Baby sloths are highly likely to die if separated from their mothers too soon, according to Sam Trull, a primatologist and co-founder of the Sloth Institute in Costa Rica, which is featured in the series.
“The first time I met a sloth I fell in love,” Trull admitted. She hopes the series will combat the image of the animals as lazy and shiftless, as well as spreading the word about the dangers they face. The combination of increased poaching and the encroachment of civilization in sloths’ native stomping grounds of Central and South America is making life tough for Ambien and her ilk.
“My entire life is dedicated to the sloths now,” Trull said. “I think they’re a little bit of the underdog. It’s a species that I’m drawn to help.”
Trull said she’s been working with animals since she was 16, although sloths have only been her focus for the past three or so years. Running the institute, funded entirely by donations, is a lonely, demanding job, but in her eyes, somebody’s got to do it.
“It can get overwhelming,” she said. “Sometimes you just want to have fun and actually hang out with humans.”
Another helpful hint that emerged from the session: don’t ever mess with a two-toed sloth in the wild. They have very vicious teeth and a strong bite, Trull warned. The three-toed variety are a little more cuddly — but only a little bit.
“Miracle Orphans” producer Mark Wheeler said another highlight of the series is the devotion demonstrated by an Australian woman who tends to baby fruit bats — going so far as to wrap them in tiny blankets and feed them with bottles.