Saturday, 27 November 2010

Andrew Gray comes to visit!

Like I mentioned in my last post, Andrew Gray (the supervisor for my project from Manchester) has come out here to help decide what direction to take the project in. He arrived here on Thursday and already, we have come up with a really exciting plan for the study! I will summarise it briefly here...

So for those who don't know a massive amount about Sloths, they have a number of features that make them completely unique from other mammals. Firstly, they have a VERY low metabolic rate - it is thought that one meal takes up to a month to digest!! As well as this, they can't thermoregulate like other mammals; they act almost like reptiles and amphibians moving in and out of the sunlight to control their body temperature. In captivity they can't do this because they don't have any access to the sunshine - their enclosures are basically a uniform temperature.

So the idea we have come up with will basically involve me using 3 female Bradypus sloths, kept alone in standardised enclosures for 6 months. I will me carefully controlling everything myself including exactly what and how much they eat. I will be taking both the body temp's and the ambient temp every 4 hours for the full 6 months and will be able to compare these against each other. Along side this, the sloths will each be wearing a daily diary for the full time, recording exactly how long they spend active (I will then be able to compare this back to the temp...!)
The final piece in the puzzle will involve me monitoring the metabolic rate of each sloth using carmine red - so feeding them the die with one meal and recording the time until they give me some red poo - potentially up to a month! I will also be measuring humidity and rainfall levels throughout ... Sooo from all this I will be able to see how ambient temp, body temp, activity levels, humidity and rainfall affect the metabolic rate!

I hope for my final month here I will be able to head up to the new sanctuary in Monteverde where it is much cooler and compare how the sloths up there (that aren't naturally found there) are coping with the ones here! - exciting stuff!

Anyway I will collect some pics etc of the new enclosures and how the sloths are settling into them over the next few days and pop them up on here so you can see!


Monday, 22 November 2010

November happenings

I really have been getting a bit lazy with writing the blog - I will try and update it more often in the future! (By the time I come around to writing it, I forget Add Videowhat has been happening..)

Ok so firstly, MORE babies !! We literally have babies coming out of our ears at the moment, there aren't normally this many! Unfortunately the first one we received last week (named jessie) died of pneumonia. Then the day after, we received the youngest one yet - possibly hours old - it still had the umbilical cord attached! He was found early in the morning after a stormy night by one of the workers. We think that the mother gave birth, then the branch she was hanging from broke off and her and baby fell to the ground - but the baby was found wedged under the branch so the mother probably couldn't pick it up. We named this one Jessie boy, but unfortunately he too died a couple of nights ago. We think it was probably because he had an infection around the remaining umbilical cord and he was just too young to fight it :-(

And more sad news, a few of the younger ones have developed what can only be described as a 'sniffle'. They didn't seem to be doing too badly but sadly, Apollo died suddenly 2 nights ago and Ella isn't doing so well at the moment. However she is still eating fine so fingers crossed she can shake it off !! Apart from this though, everyone else is doing fine :-) The weather has been cold (for a sloth) and VERY rainy this week so they aren't enjoying that so much.

Ubu is a 6 month old Choloepus baby with paralysed back legs who I have been working with daily to try to get them working again! He's quite a character and has been making incredible improvements over the last week - moving his legs all by himself! I have even had him learning to climb on the 'jungle jim' - very sweet! I will get some pictures soon (when it stops raining.)

Anyway enough about the babies, we have had some naughty escapees! The new enclosures in the visitor centre were designed to be escape proof - obviously not well enough for determined sloths. The surprising thing is, the first escapee was the laziest, sleepiest sloth of all, Millie! We found her in the morning clinging to the outstide of the building fast asleep. She managed to do this every night until we figured out her route and ruined it for her. Then a week later one of the 2 Bradypus babies that are in there at the moment discovered he could climb over the wall and get to the people on the other side for cuddles! I first found him when I was on one of my night shifts - went to record what they were doing and found him sitting outside the enclosure happily munching on some leaves. He then escaped every hour for the whole night so he has now been relegated back with the others! This is Millie:

Judy and Luis finally arrived back from Monteverde today so they have lots of catching up to do on everything that has been going on! They weren't due back for another few weeks but the emergency with the babies has called for Judy's magic sloth whispering! I think buttercup is very glad to have her back (as we all are!)

I have been having a bit of a rethink about my project this week. After realising that I wont be able to manipulate the diet, I also realised that it is going to be much harder than I originally thought to change the structure of the enclosures and vary feeding times etc. Also, things like light levels are difficult to change as they are semi - indoors. However, I am not stuck for ideas of what to study; I am almost spoilt for choice! Luckily my supervisor is coming out here this week to help me decide exactly what to focus on and how to get around the problems. I will let you know what we decide on doing - its exciting stuff!

I saw my first ever wild Choloepus today in Cahuita - chilling in an Almond tree! On the sanctuary grounds there are 3 Choloepus that have been rehabiliated and released but have never really left, and they too live in Almond trees. Hopefully I will be able to tag these with the devices and use it as a nice intermediate comparison between wild and captive behaviours (They have access to all the things wild ones do and captive ones don't - direct sunlight, rain etc - but also only feed of one type of leaf, just like the captive sloths currently being rehabiliated!) So it will be interesting to compare their activity patterns and see how they differ - Do they sleep more or less than captive / wild sloths? Do they sleep / feed at similar times? Do they scratch more or less than in captivity? etc etc, you get the idea!
So right now I am going through the data from the daily diaries I have had on the captive Bradypus sloths, and working out the proportions of time spent doing each behaviour - VERY time consuming!! I have included a picture of what some of the data looks like!

Anyway thats just a brief update of whats has been happening recently. I'm sure I have missed things out but I will write as things happen in future!


Monday, 1 November 2010

babies and sloth wee

Ok so here are some pictures of the new babies as promised. It turns out we have actually had 5 new ones this week, not 3 as I said earlier. We had 2 more Bradypus brought in, both from the same man. Sadly it looks like they have been tied up by the wrist for a while though because they have clear markings there and don't enjoy anyone touching the arms - it's very sad. They are doing well though, and are very cute !!

I got to try out the fancy new microscope yesterday... we found some strange white paste-ish stuff in the urine of some of the sloths so I had a look to see if I could shed any light on it. It looked a bit like a close up view of white goo. We have no real idea what it could be, possibly calcium deposits (Rabbits get something similar), but who knows. They seem fine and well in themselves so time will tell. I have added a delicious picture of the poo/wee sample and microscope too.

Also while I remember, I was watching Attenborough's life of mammals a couple of days ago and the part about the Sloth's came on ... It definitely shows actual David Attenborough himself sitting here at Aviarios eating his breakfast - I got very excited that he was actually here !! And I never even knew ..! xx