Sanctuary helps Suriname's sloths back to jungle

by Stg Green Heritage Fund Suriname Vetted since 2015 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit
A building crew helping to bring a sloth down
A building crew helping to bring a sloth down

As we drove up to the barrier at the Sloth Wellness Center, an hour’s drive from the capital Paramaribo, the telephone rang. A sloth had been found and if we could come to pick it up in South Paramaribo. We stayed for only a short while at the center, just long enough to see 19November and her baby.

This male three-fingered sloth rescued from a road on the 11thof August marked the beginning of a deluge of rescues that was to follow in the ensuing period. On the 12thof August, we received a call, an animal had been found crossing a road in the north-west of Paramaribo. The animals were transferred to the center on the 13thof August. The 14thof August we received a call that an animal had been found sitting in a flower pot in north Paramaribo. When we arrived we found a two-fingered sloth sleeping while clutching itself to a branch that was stuck in the flower pot. In the afternoon we received a call from the Zoo that an animal had been brought in by the fire brigade, a female three-fingered sloth. The next day, at 7:15 AM we received a call that a sloth had been found hanging from someone’s roof top. This two-fingered sloth was brought down with the help of a building crew, because after we had looped it, we realized we would come crashing down with the animal as soon as we had its hand and feet released. With the help of the building crew we were able to bring the animal down in a slow and controlled manner. Around the fall of the night on the 15thstill, already home from work, I received a call that an animal had crossed the road in the north of Paramaribo and was now sitting in the grass. The animal friend, Charles, who had called me, stayed there until I arrived. However, there was no free kennel available, and a kennel had to be borrowed. A downpour only an hour prior to the call, had completely flooded the north of Paramaribo and gave this rescue an additional watery flavor. After 2 hours we finally were able to rescue this two-fingered sloth from the side of the road. These two animals were transferred to the center for release on Thursday afternoon by center staff, who had also brought some kennels to the city so we would not again find ourselves without kennels. Thursday afternoon, the 16thof August, just as I was about to leave the office, I received a call that a sloth had been seen since 2 PM. I received several pictures of a sloth sitting on a roof, sitting on a fence and sitting half in a tree. When I arrived, the sloth had disappeared. They told us that it was maybe in the street right behind where it had last been seen. As I started to pull out, I saw the animal sitting in a low bunch of cecropia trees. This female three-fingered sloth was brought to the office, ready for transfer to the center on Saturday morning. 

A sad start of the weekend

On Friday the 17thof August, as I was having dinner with a friend, I received a call at 10 PM that a wounded animal had been found. We quickly finished our meal, picked up the rescue van and set out to see what had happened to this animal. When we arrived, we found a three-fingered sloth bleeding from its neck and with blood in its fur. Leontine, one of our volunteer vets, was on call and we met her at her office at 10:30 PM. She administered first aid, but the animal had to come back for an X-ray the next day, so the nature of the wounds could be established. The next morning when I took the animal back to the vet’s office, it was clear that it had deteriorated, and in my opinion appeared to be dying. The X-rays were devastating, the animal had been shot with a wind gun 7 times. As the animal had further deteriorated, the decision was taken not to let it suffer more than it had already done. As I was about to leave the vet’s office with my sad package, I received a call for yet another rescue. It was not far from where I had picked up the three-fingered female sloth on Thursday, and also not far from the vet’s office. As I arrived, a fire was blazing through a small bush. The woman who had called me, took me over to a small tree in front of her house. A beautiful baby sloth, with an almost orange-haired face, was hanging from a branch. The animal was upset. I asked if they had seen the mother, because if the mother was in that fire, we would not be able to save her. They told me they had not seen any other animal. As I took the animal from the branch she hissed at me. I was wondering as I drove to the office, whether the two animals could be related. I loaded the animals in the van, picked up one of our volunteers and drove over to the rescue center. 

Reunion

In the afternoon we weighed the baby, and we let both animals climb on a jungle gym. There was no recognition. The female was restless and continued climbing up and down, and the little one, seemed to feel comfortable in the bowl of the scales and was not moving. I decided to bring the little one with the bowl closer to the female. The little one hissed. And suddenly there was some sort of recognition, she climbed onto the female and did not let go of her anymore. When we released them on the Sunday afternoon, they had remained together ever since they were reunited. Clinging firmly onto her mother, we saw the pair disappear into the forest.

And the rescues continue

Monday the 20thof August we received a call that a wounded animal had been found at the side of the road, not too far from our center. The family who had found her was visiting Suriname and had a visit planned to our center. The animal was rescued, and her right front arm appeared to have an injured claw. The animal was taken to the vet close to our center and treated for her injury. Throughout the whole incident, this three-fingered sloth never lost her appetite. While we were on a field mission in the east of the country, on the 21stof August, we received a call late in the afternoon for a rescue near the capital Paramaribo. A two-fingered sloth was crawling in the Ixora hedge of the lady who called. Two of our volunteers in the city, Stellar and Eva, were mobilized and they managed to rescue this animal. On the 25thof August, just as I was leaving for the rescue center, I received a call from a friend. She sent me two pictures, a sloth was hanging on her gate. She had tied her dogs, because otherwise this three-fingered male sloth would not survive this adventure. He is currently awaiting his release.

A sloth is hidden in the grass along a busy road
A sloth is hidden in the grass along a busy road
Wet, but away from the busy road
Wet, but away from the busy road
Sloth on its way to freedom
Sloth on its way to freedom
Baby sloth with orange-haired face
Baby sloth with orange-haired face
Reunited with mama sloth after two days
Reunited with mama sloth after two days
The wounded anteater is taken from a garden
The wounded anteater is taken from a garden

This year we already had many rescues and releases. Rescues normally involve animals in difficult situations, where the humans are not looking forward to co-habiting with a sloth or anteater either in their house, under their roof, or on their roof. Some of these rescues were not the normal rescue, care and release cases. Two of these rescues both involved lesser anteaters, that were wounded so severely that we did not know if they would survive.

Fredy the Anteater

On January the 30th a lady called for an anteater rescue. She told us that the anteater was walking in the yard and climbing on the fence. "This behavior is unusual for a nocturnal animal,” I immediately remarked. The lady explained that she was afraid that the anteater was aggressive and therefore asked if we could rescue him before the neighbors' children got back from school. When we arrived at the destination we noticed that there were boards in front of the fence and the house. Before we could get to him we needed to climb over the fence. We found him laying on the ground in a corner with no movement and noticed that he had a wound on his head and on one eye. He was bleeding from these injuries. This was clearly the reason why the animal was moving during the day, it wanted to find a safe place.

Without hesitation we placed him in the kennel and drove to the veterinarian. There they anesthetized him and cleaned his wounds, gave intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as a painkiller. Probably, he had a concussion, and it was clear that there was blood in his eye. We took him with us to the GHFS office in the city to rest and for closer observation and further treatment. Together with the veterinarian we kept a close eye on him and the process to his recovery. He received intravenous fluids for several more days, until he produced his first pee. We also found the animal sleeping in typical anteater fashion, with the head between the hind legs, only showing its nose. In the last week before he was released we saw that he displayed more and more normal behaviour, when we cleaned the cage. He ate termites' nests at night, would drink the yoghurt we provided, something the animal clearly took a liking to. Within 20 days he was fully recovered and ready to be released in Saramacca. Treating the animal was no longer possible, as it would stand up in attack position, a clear sign it had recovered very well. We took the animal on the 17th of February to the Bloemendaal Apartments resort, where they assisted us with the boat to bring the animal to the uninhabited shore of the Saramacca river.

Highway Anteater

On Saturday the 7thof April again a wounded lesser anteater was reported. The person who had found the animal on the Highway had not actually seen that the animal was hit by a car, but it was lying near the road. He put it in a box and took it with him in the hope it would get better. At the end of the day he decided to call to get assistance. As I was in Saramacca at the sloth rescue center, I called our veterinary doctor Audrey to see if she could help. While the gentlemen were driving from the south to the vet, I was driving back from the west to the vet. When I arrived at vet Audrey’s office they were already there, and she had started the treatment. The animal came in bleeding from its nose. And while she treated it, it had some sort of epileptic seizure. There were no external wounds, no swelling. We can only guess what happened to her. After 3 days I saw her eating for the first time. After a few days more rest she progressed from limited mobility in the city to a bigger enclosure in Saramacca, where they continued to monitor her and provided her with her favorite food, termite’s nests. She was released after ten days with us.

We are grateful for these happy endings. Unfortunately, not all our rescues have a happy ending and each and every time it remains our single most important task to provide each individual animal with the best care we can get. We thank you, our Global Giving friends, as always for your continued support.

Sleeping in typical anteater fashion
Sleeping in typical anteater fashion
Meeting Beertje with his finders, 2014
Meeting Beertje with his finders, 2014

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a Dutch woman, Wynne, who came to Suriname to work as a schoolteacher deep in the jungle. In Paramaribo, she met Monique Pool and her sloths and anteaters and became a dedicated volunteer, as has happened to so many other people once they had met their first sloth. I know this, for this woman is me. And I would like to tell my story of Beertje, one of GHFS’s rescued animals, as our lives got entwined at this rescue center.

One day, 5 September 2014, GHFS got a call from a family in Meerzorg, at the eastern bank of the Suriname river. A 2-fingered sloth baby had been found. Yvonne, GHFS’ long term and completely dedicated surrogate sloth-mom set out for the rescue, together with me. That’s when we met Beertje. ‘Beertje’ means ‘small bear’ in Dutch, the name given to him by the family that had found him. And that was exactly what he looked like. Cute, round, soft and with fangs that he knew how to use! The little boy of this family had found him on the soccer field and wanted to keep him as a pet. Beertje’s mom had probably been killed. But as Beertje refused all food, the boy’s parents decided that he would be better off with GHFS. And thus Beertje started his life at GHFS, which was located in town then. He never got to like the goat milk, but he liked his apples, pumpkin and rice. And he thrived. But he was a lonely orphan, as he had only his stuffed toy to cling to as a surrogate mom and occasional human caretakers with his food.

Enters Wimpy in this story. Wimpy was an old male 3-fingered sloth. Miraculously, he was found at Monique’s parents house in town! Monique transferred him to her own house, aka the GHFS rescue center, and put him in an outdoor cage for observation. Beertje was occasionally put into this same cage so he could try his climbing skills. Then, to our surprise, Beertje was gone. Nowhere to be found in a not so big a cage! Until he was found clinging to Wimpy’s belly, who had curled himself into a ball for a nap! A 2-fingered sloth baby, adopted by a 3-fingered male sloth. The baby’s urge to cling to a living creature was greater than his fear for the unknown. And the old guy was as gentle as only a 3-fingered sloth can be. Thus started a happy period in Beertje’s life, save in Wimpy’s care.  Wimpy would be given a few hours off care each day, when he would eat his leaves, while nocturnal Beertje would sleep with the stuffed toy. Within months, Beertje outgrew his stepfather. And yet Wimpy did not refuse to carry him around. Until a sad morning, when Wimpy was found weak and dying of old age... Beertje was on his own again.

Beertje grew and grew, while his fur turned from dark brown into blond long hairs. From pup size, he was now of average dog size. He would sleep during the day and stroll around the cage during the night. Waiting for the opening of the new sloth rehabilitation center in Saramacca, far away from the urban environment, where he could start his soft release into the forest. Mid 2017 was the moment. Beertje moved into his jungle environment, together will all other sloths and anteaters then taken care of by GHFS. He was placed inside a new enclosure with his favourite food nearby and the door wide open. The jungle was all around him. But he did not move. Most other sloths and anteaters chose the jungle life after a little adjustment time. But Beertje still lived his lazy life inside the open cage. Had he become a pet, with no urge for jungle life?

Enters Wynne again. This January, I came back to Suriname to see the new Sloth Wellness Center for myself and finish the work on the education section. All sloths I had known before in town, had by then walked off, into the jungle. But after months, Beertje was still there. Why would he not leave? Inside the cage, he moved by hanging from branches and ropes. In order to go outside and into the nearest tree, he only had to cross 1 meter of ground space. Psychological barrier? ‘Floor is danger, rope is safe way?’ So I decided to make life even easier for Beertje. A rope was added, out of the door and into the tree. And then it happened. Before night fall, Beertje had taken his first steps outside, and up into the tree!

The next morning, he was soaken wet because of the rain and hanging from a thin tree bending over because of his weight, with no exit to another tree. Life in the jungle was not so easy after all. It took another rope to create an escape route to lead him out of that embarrassing position. The following days, Beertje was seen napping and eating high up in the trees surrounding his cage. Would he take up permanent residence there, as a few 3-fingered sloths had done? It has been a week now, since we last saw Beertje. He has chosen a jungle life after all. Beertje and I met at GHFS and now we both have moved on. GHFS’ volunteers will miss him, but more than that, we are happy. After all, wild animals belong in the wild. 

Beertje clinging to his foster father Wimpy
Beertje clinging to his foster father Wimpy
Beertje finally outside his cage!
Beertje finally outside his cage!
Beertje out in the jungle!
Beertje out in the jungle!
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

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The 3 babies are transported to their incubators
The 3 babies are transported to their incubators

Timmie was found two days ago by Mr. Sabajo in a secondary forest. He heard the animal before he saw it. Timmie is very good at whistling like a good ventriloquist. When he found this baby, Mr. Sabajo noticed that the animal’s nails were filed. Which means that someone must have left the animal in the forest. Because normally baby sloths have very sharp nails. One can only wonder about why someone first kidnaps the animal from his mother, and then leaves it alone in the forest to die. Yes, to die, because Timmie is not more than 4 months old, and will not be able to survive on his own yet. Timmie especially whistles while he is eating. This is either a sign that he is happy and whistles when he eats, or it may also be a strategy to stay in touch with his mother while he is eating away from her. From our experience, we noticed that the little ones will climb themselves to eat leaves while their mothers may be resting. And then join her again when they have finished their small adventure. At around 8 months, the mothers leave their babies to fend for themselves. We now have 3 babies at the center who go into their incubators at night. And hopefully we can run these incubators as of next week powered by the sun!

We moved…

Yes we did, even though the center is mostly an empty shell. We are managing without electricity, but hopefully that problem will have been solved by end of next week. The animals do not need much in terms of furniture, the trees are their furniture. It is for the animals that need care that we need to get our center properly outfitted. We will do this as funding becomes available. Two of our volunteers are looking into how our intensive care unit can be made into just that. The 20-foot container is very hot because the sun is relentlessly shining on it from different angles during the day. The first solution will be to paint the container white. The second solution will be to insulate the container by constructing a double wall. We are now awaiting further details of how we can as quickly as possible make this unit ready, so that we can receive animals, like Inke, that need extra care in a proper environment.

Meet Inke…

Inke was reported to us over the weekend by shop-owner Inke, who had previously rescued animals for us from people that came into her shop with a sloth. This time, she saw a person entering her shop with a sloth, and she immediately addressed this woman, and told her she had to leave the animal with her, and otherwise she would not leave her shop. Fortunately, as none of our own volunteers was available, Mariska from the dog shelter drove out to the shop to take the animal and bring it to one of our volunteers. On Monday, the animal that was traumatized as a result of claw cutting, was transferred to the center. She is now eating and drinking her rescue drops, and slowly healing from her trauma.

These are only two stories of animals that we recently rescued from unfortunate situations. We rescued and released animals throughout the transition period in which we moved. One from the waiting area at the penitentiary facility, another from some boys that were harassing an animal. Please follow our facebook, instagram and website for more stories about our work.

We appreciate every new recurring donation, as especially now this is what we most need to keep us going.

Inke traumatized by people who cut her claws
Inke traumatized by people who cut her claws
Sloth at the penitentiary facility
Sloth at the penitentiary facility
Sloth entangled in hammock and ropes
Sloth entangled in hammock and ropes
 

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Organization Information

Stg Green Heritage Fund Suriname

Location: Paramaribo - Suriname
Website: http:/​/​greenfundsuriname.org/​en/​
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @moniquespool
Project Leader:
Wynne Minkes
Paramaribo, Suriname
$26,840 raised of $30,000 goal
 
491 donations
$3,160 to go
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