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Feb 15, 2018

From Suriname with Love

A Day of Friendship and Love for Nature
A Day of Friendship and Love for Nature

This Valentine’s Day the sloths send you love from their now almost finished home in Suriname. In the past months we have been working hard on making the finishing touches to the separate rooms, and your donations have given us the financial support to actually do this. One corporate donor has taken on the outfitting of the intensive care unit and the related emergency care room, as well as the educational component of our center. Which brings me to the work of our star volunteer for this year, Wynne Minkes, who is back to finish her work on the educational part of our facility. Minkes received the Sloth Award 2017 this past Monday.

Education at the Sloth Wellness Center

Apart from a sanctuary for sloths, anteaters and armadillos (the Superorder of the Xenarthra), the Sloth Wellness Centre is also intended as an educational center. Here, GHFS will teach (school)children and adults from Suriname and abroad about these extraordinary South American animals and the dangers of deforestation. This type of education is much needed, as the average Surinamer still associates the forest with a scary and undesirable place to be in, and wildlife is mostly seen as a source of meat or even vermin that needs to be exterminated!

With beautiful photo's and interesting facts, we want to create sympathy and awe for the Xenarthra. Thus, we hope to create a future generation of Surinamers with more appreciation for its lush forest and its inhabitants. Few realize how unique Suriname is in the world, as it is still covered with 93% of pristine Amazon jungle! There will also be some activating 'sloth' games for children and adults alike.

The space on the ground floor between the two shipping containers is designated as the education space. One part of the information will be about the sloths, anteaters and armadillos occurring in Suriname (2 sloth species, 3 anteater species and 5 armadillo species). And all other information will be on GHFS' care taking of these animals, on the harmful effects of deforestation, and on actions that visitors can take themselves. We hope to show the results of our work in our next report!

First rescues of 2018

Where we left off in 2018 in our last report with Igor, the giant anteater, we started our year with the rescue and release of the tiniest anteater that lives in Suriname. The silky anteater. This animal that is often mistaken for a baby is with its 260 g an adult and an amazing nocturnal canopy dweller. Unfortunately, we only receive these animals from deforestations, because otherwise they do not come to the forest floor. As these animals are extremely sensitive, this adult silky anteater was released in the forest sanctuary behind the Sloth Wellness Center on the day we received it. For many years it was assumed that there was only one single species occurring throughout the whole of South America, but Flavia Miranda, our anteater friend from Brazil, established in a paper published at the end of last year that there are in fact 7 different species.

We thank you for your continued support and are looking forward to maybe seeing you at our center in the future.

The tiniest anteater in Suriname released again
The tiniest anteater in Suriname released again
Wynne inspecting if container is well-positioned
Wynne inspecting if container is well-positioned
Wynne Minkes receives Sloth Award 2017
Wynne Minkes receives Sloth Award 2017
Nov 27, 2017

An Anteater's Ta(i)le

Igor enjoying some termites
Igor enjoying some termites

Xenarthra

Sloths, anteaters and armadillos are all in the Superorder of the Xenarthra. And although we rescue, rehabilitate and release mostly sloths, we do get the occassional anteater to care for. Since February we have been caring for a lesser anteater baby, now a juvenile, by the name of Johannes. For the purpose of housing giant anteaters our partner Welttierschutzgesellschaft provided us with the means to build an enclosure that should allow our temporary residents to roam as if they are in a forest, where they can become habituated to living independently. The enclosure would have a special double door and lock gate, so that the animals can be taken care of without too much trouble. The size is approximately 30 by 10 meters, and has an organic shape, adjusting to the available space and avoiding the need to remove trees.

The enclosure has been used to house young Johannes, a lesser anteater, providing an extra barrier between him and humans, so that he does not become too used to us, and allowing him to roam freely. Johannes has become a tree-dwelling animal that we encounter from time to time at night. He sometimes visits and sleeps in the hammock in his enclosure, where we still regularly leave anteater mix for him to eat. His door is always open, so he is free to come and go, and we often see him sleeping high up in the trees. We are now confident that he is capable of living on his own.

Igor, the Giant anteater

Igor, a giant anteater, has also used the enclosure. He was in the hands of a “legal” wildlife trafficker with a permit to export four giant anteaters (and no, we could not believe it either!). An associate of the wildlife trafficker called one of the veterinarians we work with, because one of the animals had diarrhea. Cleopatra went to see what was going on, and told this man that she wanted to take the animal with her, because it needed an IV and intensive care. While at his location, she saw that there were three other animals, one of which was wounded on his front right leg. Arranging the transportation of the sick animal was not so easy, and was delayed because we had trouble coordinatimg a rescue with the wildlife trafficker. When we finally arrived at his location, two days after Cleopatra first went there, the animal had already died. We took the animal with us and had a necropsy performed in the presence of a game warden.

Cleopatra arranged for the wounded animal to be released to us as well. She and the wildlife trafficker agreed that he would sign a release that he had voluntarily given the animal to us, and that he knew we were not going to return it to him. Igor arrived at the center on the 5th of October. He was very stressed and could not at first find his way out of the lock into the enclosure. Cleopatra decided after a while to go in with the animal and guide him into the larger area; he was definitely more afraid than aggressive. During the four weeks Igor received treatment for his wounds, he roamed the grounds where Johannes was housed. Johannes was not always pleased with this intruder, but Igor clearly either ignored him, or gave him a friendly slap when he became too annoying.

At the end of October, Cleopatra observed that Igor’s wounds had healed very well and she told us that he could be released. Providing the animal with termite nests had become increasingly difficult because the nests were becoming scarce near the center. 

So, on the 4th of November we borrowed a transport bench from the Animal Protection Society, and made an agreement with our friends from Apartments Bloemendaal to release the animal, with their help, on the uninhabited side of the Saramacca River. The last arrangements were made on Saturday night, when we decided we would try to lure Igor into the bench with a termite nest, then take him to the boat between 10 and 12 o’clock on Sunday morning. Astrid, veterinary doctor in Saramacca, decided to come and assist us, and several tourists arrived quite unexpectedly. We were a bit skeptical about the crowd, but we made the best of it, and they actually helped us carry the bench holding Igor.

The animal was a bit stressed by the experience, but then again also very interested in his termite nest. He continued eating for most of the 10-minute drive to Apartments Bloemendaal. Anteaters are very sensitive to sound, however, and the boat’s motor seemed to stress him more than the presence of humans. The moment the motor was switched off he resumed licking up termites. We cruised for approximately 20 minutes, searching for a hard bank where we could put the bench and let Igor go. We found a beautiful spot, and he seemed curious as to what was happening. As soon as we had the bench stable on the bank, we opened the door. Igor walked out at a leisurely pace but quickly disappeared into the undergrowth. He did not hesitate for one second, and also did not look back to say goodbye ( :) )

We hope that in the future any other wild animals that need to recover in this forest enclosure will be as successful as Igor.

Help us achieve our 2017 goal by making an end-of-year donation

We once more ask your support to help us finish our shelter location by specifically making a donation on this Giving Tuesday, the 28th of November, or until the end of the year to our project. This will certainly help bringing us closer to achieving our goal of making our center operational.

 

Sleeping Lesser anteater Johannes
Sleeping Lesser anteater Johannes

Links:

Nov 16, 2017

Let's hear it from a returning volunteer...

We have light!
We have light!

The first three months

We have been in the center now for three months, and it seems like we have been there much longer. The first 2 months without electricity, and for the last month we have electricity installed. Our solar system arrived, was installed and is up and running. Volunteers and interns came to help us with the daily care. One is a returning volunteer, Elise, who was familiar with the situation in my house. We asked her to describe a typical day at the center for you.

Elise's day at the Sloth Wellness Center

I love to greet the dawn. Today I have a perch upstairs in the open-air common room of the Sloth Wellness Center, and I’m filled with gratitude for this place and the opportunity to be a part of it, and the world. The sky streaks beautiful shades of orange, pink, and blue, as I listen to all the jungle sounds—birds, frogs, and insects—and maybe later, snapping branches signaling the arrival of traveling troops of capuchins and squirrel monkeys swinging and leaping through the trees. It’s a time of quiet reflection before the staff and other volunteers stir.

I will mix goat milk powder and water for the baby 3-toed sloths, then walk down the dirt road to watch the leaf-cutter ants and to take pictures of flowers, birds, spiders, and whatever else I might see. Around 7:30 or 8:00, I will remove the incubator cover and sweep the floor while the babies wake up. Then the feeding begins! Ed comes out with a friendly “good morning” and goes for a run. He will return with cecropia leaves and other treats for the sloths. Yvon will prepare 2-toed sloth and anteater food, and one of us will grind leaves for the babies’ “smoothie.” The animals sleep and eat, sleep and eat, and the people build and repair, shop, cook, write—whatever needs doing.

There might be visitors, or a sloth rescue or delivery. This week we received and released Julian, who was found lying in the sun on the side of the road, and Joyce, who was stranded in someone’s garden. We might be lucky enough to release a rehabilitated animal, as we did Igor, an injured giant anteater acquired from a wildlife trafficker, and once more feel good that we’ve saved a life and made a difference. It is a manifestation of our mantra, Wild animals belong in the wild!

Intensive Care and the Fight against Selfies with Sloths 

We worked together around International Sloth Day with the Dutch Branch of World Animal Protection to spread the word about the horrors perpetrated by tourists against sensitive sloths only because they want to take a "Selfie with a Sloth". For that purpose Vlogger Fleur travelled to Suriname and she produced a number of vlogs about this practice. She also helped us paint the Intensive Care Unit white, so that we could ensure that the container does not become to hot in the sun. Her work and the work on the intensive care unit has not yet been finished, but some local volunteers helped as well. Our planning is to have the unit finished by the end of the year.

Giving Tuesday is around the Corner

We again ask your support to help us finish the building by specifically making a donation on this Giving Tuesday, the 28th of November, to our project. This will certainly help bringing us closer to achieving our goal of making our center operational.

Igor the Giant rescued from a wildlife trafficker
Igor the Giant rescued from a wildlife trafficker
Two volunteers painting the IC unit
Two volunteers painting the IC unit

Links:

 
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