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Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!

by Stg Green Heritage Fund Suriname
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Sloth Sanctuary Suriname sequel: the whole story!
Aza-Sita exercising with her splint
Aza-Sita exercising with her splint

The long dry season was starting to take its toll around the second week of September. Rescues were once again increasing and we saw a similar pattern as earlier in the year when we were experiencing the drought. Animals would come in dehydrated or wounded as they came in conflict with dogs and were not able to defend themselves because of weakness. One such animal was reported on a Saturday while we were all out in the field doing a project in a local community just prior to the end of the school holidays. Our volunteer vet Eva ensured that the right contacts were made, and that the animal was transported to the vet on call that weekend. The sloth had a broken arm. The last time, the fracture was too complicated and could not be set. But this time it was a clean cut, and it was a young animal. As she was still weak applying a splint or surgery could only be done if the animal was strong enough.

From our experience earlier this year, the animal was given intravenous fluids for several days, and she was visibly improving even though she had to be in a lot of pain. One thing our vet Eva noticed, as well as the vet treating her, was that this young female sloth was supporting her own arm with her other arm. After 5 days the surgery was planned in the evening, after normal business hours. Although the idea had been to sedate her and perform surgery, after a very thorough examination Leontine, the vet treating her, decided to apply a splint on the exterior and not to perform surgery. After the splint was set, which was not a simple task, the vets decided to name her. Fabienne, the vet on call said Sita, and Eva said Aza, because it means strong in Swahili. So we mostly refer to her as Aza-Sita, and she is indeed strong, Strong Sita. The splint was removed two days ago. And the bone has healed.

In preparation for her increased mobility and rehabilitation the volunteers decided to renovate one of the enclosures in the weekend that International Sloth Day is celebrated. This would be our first enclosure that was going to be built around a tree. Our carpenter Orlando had prepared all the wood and it would be a reasonably simple task of fitting all pieces together. However, it was also the first time we were building such a high cage, 4 meters high! Fortunately, two athletic volunteers used to tree climbing were in no time in the tree and the enclosure was almost completed. We hope to complete it this weekend, when we have the additional materials, so that Aza will be able to start exercising her arm.

Our continued efforts to improve our rehabilitation work would not be possible without your support. The well-being of every single animal making a slow but steady recovery makes it worthwhile for us every single time.

Volunteers posing after a hard day of work
Volunteers posing after a hard day of work
Some of the work in action for Aza-Sita
Some of the work in action for Aza-Sita
Frankie on her daily walk in the garden
Frankie on her daily walk in the garden

In our last report, we gave a broad overview of the happenings of the dry months that started out our year, and the many, many rescues we did. After that incredibly busy time, we had a short period of no rescues, just caring for the animals that are at the center. And then we started again on our usual schedule of an animal or two a week. Mostly sloths, and for the past two weeks, from one specific location around Lelydorp. Last Wednesday, we had a total of five animals, so the bus was stacked full with passengers looking for a better life in the forest. One of the animals was Frankie, an anteater that had stayed with us for almost 2 weeks.

Frankie was found by a good soul on a road around 80 km outside of Paramaribo, in the District of Brokopondo. And she had apparently been hit by a car, but was not dead. She arrived at our offices the next day, and appeared to be in a state of shock and weakness. When we took her to the vet, she had regained already some of her strength, and was mainly defensive. That was not making it easier for us to examine her. So the vet was going to come by the next day, when she was a little bit more settled in and no longer so scared of us. Frankie slept a lot, which is good when you have a bad headache, and when the vet visited, she was not as restless. However, we did find that she had a parasite in her foot and in her digestive system.

To treat her, we would have to give her either medicines by injection or through her food. Neither one was easy. After four days, she started to eat the food, instead of just stepping on it and in it. And then something pretty amazing happened. As I was preparing her food, I heard a snort. I was not sure whether Frankie was doing that, but for sure, when she saw me with the food, she did it again. Frankie was talking to me! She actually had gotten the taste of the food, and now was instructing me to make a bit more haste. It never ceases to amaze me how these completely wild animals connect with us, interact with us, and cease any defensive behavior. Once they understand that you are helping them, they start to direct us and indicate what they need.

Frankie stayed with us for a bit longer than normal, because we felt that we had to give her a good start. She really enjoyed all the food we gave her, from frozen termites nests to yoghurt with supplements. And when we let her go, she left at ease, she immediately started to check out her surroundings.

On the 9thof July we started to paint an educational mural with a student group from Tulane University. The design was made by a well-known Surinamese artist and the animals we worked with were displayed in their actual sizes next to each other, so we can provide people a sense of the difference in sizes of the sloths, anteaters and armadillos we work with. We did see Ostrich around in the trees surrounding the center, but we did not see 19November. We continued the work on the mural over several weekends with other volunteers and we hope to finish it by the end of August.

Then my sloth friend 19November surprised us a few days later, when she showed up again, showing off her new baby. We decided to call it 9July, because we all had the feeling it was 19November showing us that she also could create something.

With your support, we continue to care for sloth and anteaters in trouble. We make daily efforts to improve the circumstances under which we rescue, rehabilitate and release the animals, ensuring their individual well-being one at a time.

Impression of the focused work done by students
Impression of the focused work done by students
9July climbing on her mother
9July climbing on her mother's head
Tulane students posing in front of their work
Tulane students posing in front of their work
Our mural, a work in progress
Our mural, a work in progress
Jinkoe during her first months at the center
Jinkoe during her first months at the center

As we already let you know in our first report this year, we had a very busy start of 2019. Not only with meetings and trainings, and thinking of where we want to focus our attention in the coming years. We also had many many rescues. And these rescues were due to what we think was an unusual dry period that started in January.

And I have to mention the elephant in the room...the problem of climate change facing Suriname is real and enormous. With 90 percent of our infrastructure in the low-lying coastal zone, Suriname will suffer great consequences from sea level rise and the effects of climate change. The effects are already starting to show in terms of stronger winds, shifting seasons, more extreme weather events during the different seasons, such as more rainfall causing flooding and longer droughts. Strong winds and small tornados cause damage to our infrastructure, like our houses, but also to our forests. Small tornados can cause the destruction of complete forest patches in a matter of minutes.

Climate change has a direct effect on the lives of the animals we work with. In the past months we did not only have an increase in rescues, sometimes one per day and sometimes more than one per day, but we also saw an increase in the animals that arrived in a poor condition. In a period of 3 months we had 63 rescues, while we normally rescue around 150 animals per year. A lot of animals were dehydrated, requiring subcutaneous fluids, and some were so badly dehydrated that we could not help them anymore. In addition, we had an increase in very small infants, weighing under 300 g, that had been abandoned by their mothers. None of these survived. We are not yet sure, how and if flooding and extreme rain is also going to affect the animals similarly.

Suriname is a country with almost 90% forest cover and a small population of around 550,000 people, we are a country that has contributed little to man-made climate change. There is little we can do to stop the industrialized world from doing business as usual and continuing to pump greenhouse gases in the air. So the most we can do in our country is to think of adaptive measures that will ensure that we can survive as a society and help us build our infrastructure beyond the zone of immediate impact. The only thing I kept thinking of when the drought was so pervasive, is how we could use the enormous freshwater potential of our country to maintain our forests now and in the future by devising smart irrigation methods that will keep our forests alive, and the animals (and people) that depend on them.

Jinkoe, one of the sloths that moved with us from my house to the new center and who became one of the first animals to make the sloth wellness center her home, unfortunately may have fallen victim to the effects of this severe drought. I wrote a special piece about her life at the center. Anna who had a baby earlier this year, probably lost her baby also as a result of the drought. It is with this reflection on these changes that are occurring that I end the report for this period. Planting trees, replenishing the forests and restoring biodiversity are what is foremost in my mind at this moment.

Thank you for your continued support, and please keep an eye out for the upcoming Paws + Claws Matching campaign on the 22nd of May in honour of the International Day of Biological Diversity.

Leaves falling from the trees which is unusual
Leaves falling from the trees which is unusual
Anna and her baby
Anna and her baby
Claudia Brieva teaching Medicine of Sloths
Claudia Brieva teaching Medicine of Sloths

Although 2018 ended a little bit in an unfortunate incident, with the rescue van being rammed off the road by a speed devil. GHFS was able to make a positive start in 2019. Not aware that a whiplash would have such house-binding consequences, I had to refrain for most of December and January from activities like rescues and releases, and actually most activities. The verdict was: no pushing, no pulling, no lifting and no carrying. And of course, no driving and exercising.

Fortunately, the GHFS team picked up all these activities, and rescues and releases continued. Our vehicle is still not repaired and we use private cars to do the rescues and releases. So most important is that I can tell you, we are continuing our work. We are immensely grateful for the end-of-year donations that came in, and which help us maintain our current level of activities. And also help with improvements to how we care for the animals.

In cooperation with our German partner WTG, we organized in January a Medicine of Sloths workshop for veterinary doctors and held a Wildlife Welfare Roundtable Discussion with a diverse group of stakeholders. The Medicine of Sloths workshop was taught by Claudia Brieva, lecturer in wildlife medicine at the University of Bogota in Colombia. She reserved a week out of her busy schedule to come down to Suriname and teach seven local veterinary doctors how to care for sloths that are in need of specialized care.

Biologist Carlos del Valle kicked of the meeting with a presentation about the taxonomy of the Xenarthra. Claudia Brieva then continued with the natural history of sloths, anatomy of sloths, followed by a general presentation about the medicine of sloths and diseases. At the end of the day, a sloth was examined prior to release as the animal had a small hairless spot on a leg. After treatment the animal was released as the conclusion was that he did not need to be held for further treatment. On the second day a rescued anteater was examined prior to release by the whole group of veterinary doctors. Then Claudia Brieva continued with the subjects of rehabilitation, post confiscation management and the care of infants. Two post-mortems were conducted by the group on animals that had unfortunately died last year shortly after they had been rescued. Nothing we did not know already, showed up in these post-mortems. However, it was a useful experience for the veterinary doctors.

The Wildlife Welfare Roundtable discussion was a good starting point for discussion with a diverse group of stakeholders on how the health of wildlife is linked to our own health. Participants had been provided with information on our website put together by Rory Wakeford, a volunteer with GHFS. Daniela Schrudde from WTG gave an introduction into the concept of One Health, showing how complex systems can be disturbed and lead to dire consequences for human health. The participants were very much engaged and looking forward to follow-up discussions on the different aspects of wildlife welfare and the role they play in helping to ensure welfare for animals and human beings alike.

It was a busy but good start of 2019 and we are looking forward to sharing with you more about how we use information, knowledge and discussion to improve the welfare of the animals we work with. We wish you a Happy Year of the Earth Pig. And thank you for supporting our work!

One Health Approach
One Health Approach
Participants in the Wildlife Welfare Roundtable
Participants in the Wildlife Welfare Roundtable
Deforestation rescue in a rural area
Deforestation rescue in a rural area

Links:

Heartfelt hug from the Minister after the opening
Heartfelt hug from the Minister after the opening

It is TRUE, we are now OFFICIALLY open as of Friday, the 2ndof November 2018. It was a festive day, with many high government officials attending the opening ceremony to be performed by Mrs. Roline Samsoedien, Minister of Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management. This Ministry is also responsible for all protected species in Suriname. For those of you who have been following us for a longer time, the long-term cooperation with this Ministry’s Nature Conservation Division and the Game Wardens is already a known fact. But still, we were happy to see it reasserted in this manner by the Minister’s willingness to officially open the center. You can check out our report on this festive day on our website. This day would not have been complete without at least one release. So we released three sloths in the forests around the center on this beautiful day, to emphasize our message that Wild Animals Belong in the Wild. One animal was a beautiful older male we had rescued the day before from the building site where probably not long ago his home forest had been.

Preparing for our Wildlife Welfare Workshop

We are now in full swing preparing for the wildlife welfare workshop with the support of our partner Welttierschutzgesellschaft as well as for the medicine of sloths workshop to be held in January. As part of this work we had Gabriella, an old-time volunteer, now studying animal management in her home country of the United Kingdom, who stayed with us for almost 10 weeks at the center. Next to helping with the animals, for which she would get up especially for baby Bolletje (Little Ball) every two hours during the night to feed him, she was also working on cleaning our data for the last three years and preparing a map on which we could see where the hotspots are when it comes to sloth and anteater rescues. This information will feed into our Sloth Action Plan for Suriname, which will involve all stakeholders and help these animals’ survival in urban areas and beyond.

More Education

As the Minister also indicated in her speech, we will be more closely working together on providing education to raise awareness about the sloths, anteaters and armadillos and thus help them be better protected. We started in any case with again raising awareness on international sloth day, this year it was on the 20thof October, with a short message about not taking selfies with these animals. And if possible, not with any wild animal. Because wild animals are not photo props.

We are proud to say that our Sloth Hall of Fame is now taking shape. We are talking to the artists to bring the mural on our center to live and incorporating the Sloth Hall of Fame in that mural. For those of you who are not familiar with our Sloth Hall of Fame, it is the place where we recognize all people who have contributed to the establishment and maintenance of our center.

Now we can finish our report by saying “Welcome to the Sloth Wellness Center”, we are open to receive you!

Is there hope? Will they take me to a new home?
Is there hope? Will they take me to a new home?
These sloth-face cookies were very tasty
These sloth-face cookies were very tasty

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Stg Green Heritage Fund Suriname

Location: Paramaribo - Suriname
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @moniquespool
Project Leader:
Wynne Minkes
Paramaribo, Suriname
$44,961 raised of $90,000 goal
 
391 donations
$45,039 to go
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