Our rainforests are home to millions of species. We must preserve them for future generations.

Dear Friends,
Since our last newsletter, we celebrated Earth Day with Almond Trees donated by generous sloth fans from around the globe, updated our Buttercup Inn guest rooms and welcomed popular animal and nature conservationist Jeff Corwin, who was enchanted by our rescued baby sloths!Speaking of which, we’ve rescued a record number of orphaned infants needing incubators and round-the-clock care. We’re trying to understand the biological/environmental reasons why mothers are abandoning their tiny babies, as well as the seemingly ever-increasing incidence of twin births when a mother can only successfully raise one baby (requiring abandonment of the other.) With all the new arrivals, we need to purchase an ultrasound machine and expand our NICU–stat!
The Number One question we get: “May I hold a sloth?” In the recent past we allowed volunteers to handle sloths, so there are tons of photos online of people holding sloths. But last year we were alarmed to discover how stressful it was for sloths to be held by strangers. They appear outwardly calm, but experience acute tachycardia. Unlike a human baby, they don’t cry or fuss, but their hearts race in fear. Sloths–as huggable as they look–are wild animals with unpredictable self-defense behaviors, such as biting or scratching. Also, travelers bring foreign microbes and allergens that can affect the sloths’ immune systems. For their well-being and yours, we do not allow guests to touch, hold or hug sloths.
And please keep away from roadside scammers who let you hold a sloth for a photo. They simply knock an innocent animal out of its tree, exploit it for quick money, then allow the animal to die from lack of nutrition. When the next tourist comes along who wants to hold a sloth for a photo, they repeat this inhumane practice. It’s literally the opposite of the work we do. Thank you for understanding.
All the best,
Judy Avey-Arroyo
Judy Avey-Arroyo


A lovely family found a baby sloth in Guapiles–a 5-hour drive round trip for us to make this rescue! The sloth was alone in a tree overhanging a river, no mother in sight. The baby fell from the tree, and when the family replaced it, the baby began crying out and acting erratically–probably trying to attract its absent mother’s attention–causing it to fall again. That’s when the family called us for a rescue.We believe the baby is female and about 5 months old–unprepared for independence. She weighs 810 grams and, on her first night here, ate an entire leaf, a promising sign of self preservation.We asked the young granddaughter what to name the baby sloth. She chose Nube (“Cloud” in Spanish), because she felt that her recently late father sent the baby from above … through the clouds.

 
Fresh insight into Bradypus food intake

In March I was delighted to publish my latest scientific paper entitled: “Sloths like it hot: ambient temperature modulates food intake in the brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus)” in PeerJ, the award-winning biological and medical sciences journal.During the study we measured exact levels of food intake in three-fingered sloths and investigated how these levels were affected by changes in ambient temperature. We discovered that sloths actually eat surprisingly little on a daily basis (73.5 g dry weight of leaves per day)–three times less than the amoun

t eaten by the similarly-sized howler monkey. Furthermore, we found that the amount of food consumed is remarkably consistent among individuals. Over the course of five months, my three study sloths–Felice, Jewel and Brenda–consumed a total of 61.3%, 60.0% and 61.3% of food provided respectively­–less than a 1.5% difference!

The study* suggests that the known fluctuation of sloth core body temperature with ambient temperature affects the rate at which gut fauna process digesta, allowing for increased rates of fermentation at higher temperatures. Since Bradypus sloths maintain a constantly full stomach, faster rates of fermentation should enhance digestive throughput, increasing the capacity for higher levels of food intake, thereby allowing increased energy acquisition at higher ambient temperatures. This contrasts with other mammals, which tend to show increased levels of food intake in colder conditions, and points to the importance of temperature in regulating all aspects of energy use in sloths.

*Cliffe RN, Haupt RJ, Avey-Arroyo JA, Wilson RP. (2015) Sloths like it hot: ambient temperature modulates food intake in the brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) PeerJ 3:e875 https://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.875
Firefighters rescued a male Bradypus and brought him to us. He was in perfect health, but  we noticed something strange: this three-fingered sloth had four perfectly-formed toes on his left foot. While we often see missing digits due to genetic deformities, this was the first time we had ever seen an extra toe!

We just had to name him Quattro (meaning “four” in Italian). We released him with a tracking backpack within the Sanctuary’s protected reserve. Of all the wild sloths I have worked with, Quattro was the most difficult to find after release. For weeks we searched for him in the jungle, and although his transmitter sent a strong signal, I was unable to locate him, even with his trademark extra toe!
I’ve been braiding a link of dissolving plastic into my Sloth Backpack harnesses. The plastic weakens in rain and humidity until the backpack eventually drops off and falls to the rainforest floor. Maybe that extra toe gave Quattro a superpower of invisibility, because–despite hours in the jungle every day–I was never able to visually located him again. Maybe we should have named him Houdini! After four weeks of searching, I was relieved to find his discarded backpack on the forest floor, which means he probably established a new territory of his own. ¡Muy buena suerte, Quattro!Becky Cliffe, studying for her PhD from Swansea University (UK), is wrapping up her final year of research at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. BeckyCliffe.com

 

Our rainforests are home to millions of species … we must preserve them for future generations.
When you’re not assisting at the Sanctuary, where do you work?

In my small animal practice in Puerto Viejo with my veterinary clinic partner, Dr. Estefania Solano, I teach surgery at Universidad Veritas in Coronado, and am involved in spay and neuter programs around the country.

Why don’t veterinarians spay and neuter sloths?

Because they are wild animals, we want to preserve them–not turn them in to mascots. If there is ever a chance in the future that our infant rescues can be released into the wild, they will be able to reproduce.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about sloths?

They are unlike most mammals and yet have characteristics of many different species: a digestive system similar to that of cows, a reproductive system similar to that of humans–among other similarities–while their musculature is quite different than any mammal. They are a puzzle to science!

What part of the Sanctuary do you think is most important for Insider’s Tour guests to see?

Our NICU Nursery–where the tiny babies are cared for–because it demonstrates how human encroachment is causing a major problem for sloth survival. When you see so many rescued babies in one place, it’s blatantly obvious there are problems in their habitat.

As a native Costa Rican, what does the concept of Pura Vida mean to you?

In spite of one’s problems and daily challenges, one must have the right attitude to confront these situations with valor and joy of spirit … Pura Vida!

What is the one message you would like to tell the world about conserving the rainforest?

Sloths are one of the few indigenous American species still present, and they have had the capacity to adapt genetically in one form or another for millions and millions of years. And our tropical American rainforests are home to millions of species of native flora and fauna. We must preserve them for future generations.

    Rehabilitate

A juvenile Choloepus crushed her lower jaw when she accidentally fell from a tree. Luckily, she was rescued and rushed to Dr. Francisco Arroyo, who did a superb job of wiring her jaw together. For three weeks following surgery, despite Mandy’s obvious fear and pain, she bravely accepted being hand-fed liquified leaves. By mid-February, her jaw had almost fully healed. The wires were removed for the final stage of her rehabilitation, allowing her to relearn independence and forage for herself.

 
We received a sadly familiar phone call about a sloth being attacked by a dog. This adult female Choloepus had severe bite wounds but fortunately no broken bones or neurological injuries. We cleaned and dressed her wounds, then carefully monitored her for signs of stress trauma. We were encouraged to see that the very next day, Willa had an appetite and began eating-the first sign of a sloth feeling better on the road to recovery.Within days, the repeat scenario: Another phone call, an adult female Choloepus attacked by dogs. A frequent and tragic consequence of human encroachment into sloths’ habitat, both sloths were rescued from developed areas with too few trees and too many pet dogs. The one thing we can do is to relocate the sloths away from the hazards of urban/suburban areas.Remarkably Willa’s and Walda’s injuries and recovery timelines were similar, so we decided to release them simultaneously.Each was fitted with a Sloth Backpack Daily Diary Data Logger and VHF for tracking. We released them in a forested area adjacent to the Sanctuary, where we can monitor their progress as they establish their new territories and food trees.

Earth Day 2015
 

Our Earth Day 2015 Almond Tree planting initiative has been an overwhelming success, thanks to our very generous donors and the result of our collaboration with American Apparel and illustrator Todd Selby. We’re  celebrating Earth Day Every Day, as Almond Tree donations are welcome year-round.

Leaves of the Terminalia catappa are a favorite sloth nosh and, in this era of deforestation for development, your donations allow us to give back to Mother Earth by stabilizing the soil, providing shade and filtering the air.
Muchas gracias to those who donated-your name or your honorees’ names are being carved on the commemorative plaque right now! It will be on display soon at the Sanctuary. For new donations, names will be featured on the Earth Day 2016 plaque.
Consider donating in memory of a loved one, or to honor a wedding, anniversary or new baby. Make your secure donation by PayPal athttp://www.slothsanctuary.com/donate-to-support-the-sloth-sanctuary/
Funny footnote: Celebrity that she is, Buttercup was featured on the retail hang-tag for American Apparel’s organic cotton, sweatshop-free T-shirt with Todd Selby’s illustration. The first non-human model for American Apparel, she became the subject of several surprising news stories!
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