Saturday, 30 October 2010

Raining babies!

I have uploaded some pictures of the white goo-ing I mentioned earlier. I saw it happen to a whole bunch of Sloths all neighbouring each other - A couple of hours after nearby ones had their claws cut (stress related?)... Still working on this one!

So a few days ago I tried putting the harness and device on a Choloepus - Grace - for the first time... it didn't go so well! They are a lot feistier than the Bradypus so persuading her to put her arms through the right holes didn't exactly go to plan. We ended up having to sedate her to get it on properly which wasn't ideal. Anyway since then I decided to put my womanly sewing skills to good use and modify the harnesses to make it easier - basically chopping them up and sewing on extra clips. They don't look particularly professional, but they work like a dream! I have them on a couple of two fingered sloths at the moment with no sedation necessary - just a tasty bean for distraction.

I have finally started drafting out which Sloths I am going to be using as my sample (I will be changing their conditions to see how it affects their behaviour patterns). I have picked out 16 Choloepus that seem appropriate (covering a range of conditions - number in cage / age / sex / size of cage / location etc.) I have attached a diagram of the cages and the ones I plan to use :-)

I only have a sample of 4 Bradypus that I can use the devices on and they all share the same enclosure - There used to be more but Judy and Luis are opening a new sanctuary up at Monteverde (cloud forest) so 6 Bradypus have been moved up there leaving only 8 here.... 3 of which are too small and then Sid-Wiggy who enjoys cuddles faaaar to much to be used in my study!

One of the conditions I was planning on changing was the type of food they are given - currently the Choloepus are fed beans & berros in the morning and carrots, potatoes & dog food in the afternoon (this combo gives them all the nutrients they need). My plan was to give them the leaves they eat naturally in the wild but this is looking a little difficult..! In the wild they rotate the type of tree they feed from regularly to avoid the build up of toxins - So it seems I would need to work out what toxins are present in each leaf type and rotate them at the rate they do in the wild - which no one really knows for sure. And it's a bit hard to do an observation of them in the wild considering they are nocturnal and very high up....! Adding to this problem it turns out I would need to go out everyday to find the right trees, climb them and pick the leaves fresh. I'm not so sure how well that would end ...! But I will see what I can do, more problem solving!!

Excitingly (in a geeky science sort of way) I have finally got hold of equipment that will let me measure and record the weather - which is fairly useful considering this has a MASSIVE effect on their behaviour. I can now monitor the temperature, light level, humidity, and wind speed (woop). I have also be lent the use of a very impressive little digital microscope that will let us look up close at the skin of those Sloths with skin problems and see what is going on - also very exciting!

In the last couple of days we have had 3 new babies brought to the sanctuary which is sad (but very cute). The first was a very young Bradypus confiscated from some children trying to sell it. It didn't look so good when it first arrived but seems to be doing ok now, fingers crossed. It has been named Tiny Myte because it is so small yet so strong! The second arrived yesterday and is the youngest I have seen yet - not so sure of the story behind it but it is VERY small and has come complete with the new born baby wrinkles - this one is called Shilo. Just as I am writing this another has been brought in, apparently it's a 1 month old Choloepus and unfortunately it's pupils are dilated which is never a good sign. Hopefully with some time and TLC it will get better... ! I will get some pictures and upload them soon.

So I finally had my first day off since I have been here :-) I went down to the beach in Cahuita and had an amazing day relaxing in the sea and watching the monkeys on the beach. I'm off to the islands of Bocas del Toro in Panama on Wednesday for 3 days on the old visa run... it looks AMAZING !!! Very excited for that one.
Anyway I hope all is well back home and it's not too cold .... :) xxx

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sorry about the lack of updates.. things have been pretty busy the last couple of weeks. To start off with some sad news, Balou, one of the guard dogs here at Aviarios was eaten by a crocodile last week during the night. He went down to drink from the lagoon and the croc was waiting for him - but plans are now in place for it to be relocated so hopefully it wont cause any more problems!

While talking of sad news, we've had 2 Sloth's die over the last 2 nights and both were completely unexpected. Firstly, one of the adult Choloepus - Topo Gigio - was found dead in his cage yesterday after having been off his food for a while. Then this morning, Dominique, one of the Bradypus babies was also found dead :( She was brought to the sanctuary after being found on the ground with a head injury and she had never fully recovered, but she had been doing well so it was a shock for everyone. The problem is that no reliable analysis has ever been done on Sloth blood, so tests would have been useless in detecting abnormalities. This is knowledge that would be so valuable for Aviarios, yet they don't have the expertise or equipment to do it themselves - hopefully we can look into getting some samples analysed at some point in the near future.

Another thing I am hoping to find out more about is the strange milk-like goo that is secreted from both the eyes and nose of the two-fingered Sloth's at seemingly random times. I have seen it happen in both males and females at various times of the day under various conditions - very odd. We came up with the idea that it could be associated with pheromones and communication, but this is now looking less likely. It seems to happen more often when it's windy or raining hard (which makes them act strangely anyway and become SUPER acive) - So the goo-ing could possibly be stress related? This was backed up yesterday while moving one of the Sloth's to a shiny new enclosure - The secretions started when he was moved but were re-absorbed once left alone....! I will let you know how things go with this sloth snot stuff :)

These new enclosures have just been completed and are very impressive - I have added some pictures of how they are looking! Although some modifications need to be done to make the trees a bit stronger etc. The harness plan for my devices is working a treat, although I had some trouble yesterday finding a sloth chubby enough to wear one of the bigger daily diaries on the harness without it sagging - it needs to be a tight fit! I managed it on attempt 3 though - unfortunatley attempy 2 involved poor Sid-Wiggy who has now resumed his sulk. I am yet to attempt the harness on a two-fingered, they are much less willing to be wrangled - it might require a little tranquiliser (or a tasty flower, who knows....)

Just to add to the drama this week, I got to test out the Costa Rican healthcare system on Thursday. This all started while I was in a deeeeeep sleep having a fairly odd dream about a cross between a sloth and an orangutan (Maybe I have spent too long sloth watching...) Anyway someone banging on the window by my head sent me flying out of bed in a panic - flinging my Orangu-sloth across the room in the process - giving me horrible chest pains. A local doctor gave me some pills to relax my muscles, but things just got worse so they decided to send me to hospital to get checked out. So 4 injections and countless pills later I was knocked out cold for several hours and woke up feeling fantastic!! I'm still not sure what was causing so much pain and it was fairly worrying but whatever they gave me in those injections worked a treat so I'm not complaining - although injections in the bum = VERY painful. I want to thank Luis and Judy for looking after me so well, they couldn't have done a better job :) And also the lovely doctor who's name I cant remember right now, but she did a brilliant job!

Well I found my first snake last night (yay) - It was only a baby but was VERY cool, much better than any spider! We have a new house full of volunteers this week who are all lovely (and mostly english which is a relief cos now I can stop saying garbage, trash and poop so much). Went into Cauhita for one of the girls birthdays last night and had an amazing meal which was nice. I've turned into a real Ray Means wannabe and wrapped her present up in a bannana leaf complete with vine and flower decorations - classy !

Anyway I hope you enjoy the pictures, they involve mostly sloths, devices, my new house and the brilliantly wrapped present!

Much love xxx