MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — A popular, new workout class in Madeira Beach is now canceled as thousands of people voiced their opposition to sloth yoga.
John's Pass Alligator Attraction manager Sonny Flynn thought it was a perfect combination: yoga and an animal well known for its zen. She says she never expected 30,000 people to come out in opposition, signing a petition, sending emails, writing scathing comments on social media and even showing up to her business to scream at her employees.
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“It’s very surprising. I never thought that we would have any push-back doing a small 10 person yoga class,” Flynn explained.
Four sessions of the $40 each sloth yoga classes sold out in 45 minutes.
Shortly after, an organization in Costa Rica called the Sloth Conservation Foundation heard about the sloth yoga classes more than 1,200 miles away in Maderia Beach.
They created an online petition urging the Alligator Attraction to ban the yoga classes saying they are stressful for the sloths.
Unlike goat yoga, the sloths don’t climb on people as they stretch. Instead, Flynn says the sloth hangs out upside down in a corner of the room. After the yoga session, participants are allowed to feed or pet the sloth.
“We don’t force the sloths to do anything. If they’re not in the mood to be touched, they’ll let us know. We’re aware of that and the stress and concern of the animal is our priority,” Flynn added.
The petition says attractions like this one feed into the sloth craze, encouraging more people to take in the endangered animals as pets.
The petition reads:
What do sloths and yoga have in common? Absolutely nothing. Yet, tourist attractions in Florida are forcing the two together at the expense of rescued sloths.
The petition also takes issue with "slothies," or sloth selfies, where participants are able to snap photos with the animals.
The idea of sloth yoga has people divided, including mom and daughter Melissa and Kelise Biondo.
“The animal is not in its habitat. It’s around people which I don’t know how they adjust to that,” said Melissa, who does not support sloth yoga.
Her daughter Kelise disagrees.
“I feel like they are pretty lazy so they need that zen motion. I think it’s a cool idea,” said Kelise.
Flynn says their two-toed sloths Sid and Slyvia were rescued after someone took them in as pets, just like dozens of other animals in her Alligator Attraction wildlife business.
“We are here to tell people sloths don’t make good pets and this is why they’re here,” Flynn elaborated.
The online backlash has even raised concerns about the safety of her employees.
“People have actually showed up to the front door of our business calling my staff names. It’s sad,” she said.
Flynn is now looking for new, and less controversial, ways to fundraise.