Thursday, 21 July 2011


Ok so believe it or not ... this is my second post within a week !!! And like promised, I am delivering some photo's of the newbie babies etc. And also unfortunately delivering some more sad news - Sebastian (twin baby boy) sadly passed away this week. Violet and Sebastian were twins born at the sanctuary in the new year, and were a huge surprise for everyone! Now Violet is getting lots of love and cuddles to keep her from getting lonely without her other half. Anyway, here are a couple of snaps I have managed to take -

Puggles the Mexican, hairy, dwarf, prehensile tailed, tree porcupine:



New baby Luigi:

Mateo taking a snooze on a shoulder:

Poco and Shiloh (they aren't new - but just because they are uber-cute) :

Cory is getting big these days:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Living the dream....

YES I am still living the dream - and this is going to be a very long 3-month-worth blog entry but here goes! It seems all my positive "I will definitely write more often" energy was an epic fail. To be fair though, things aren't very slothful at the sloth sanctuary, very busy times!! However I can promise that I will take some pictures of all the things I mention here and post them over the next 2 days ...

I know many of you already know the sad sloth news, but I will break it anyway. Over the last couple of months we have lost a few of the well loved babies including Alfie, Ella, Will and Lilo. Alfie was a complete shock to all of us, although he was always one of the small ones who had trouble growing - something we call failure to thrive. This was sadly the case with Ella too, although she hadn't really been herself for a few weeks prior. It's always very hard to see one of the sloths not well, since veterinary care for them is super difficult. There are few internal medications that they can handle, so most problems need to be treated topically. And this is where their careful, secretive nature catches them out - they don't like to let us know they aren't well, so they pretend to be absolutely fine until the very last moment when it's often hard to know whats wrong, and almost impossible to diagnose and treat. Blonde baby Will had (we think) neurological problems since the day he arrived - he was very erratic and didn't quite behave as we have come to expect. Sadly he deteriorated and passed away while snuggled up with his buddies in the incubator. Lilo was slightly older than the others, and probably came as the biggest shock. He had appeared happy and healthy, but had apparently been building up gas in his stomach (not normal since sloths can't fart or burp!) Although it turns out he had experienced some funky digestive problems as a baby that we thought he had grown out of.

Judy has come to learn that there is generally a reason why the babies who arrive here have been orphaned - their mom's probably know if something isn't quite right - and a lot of the time, these problems don't become apparent for a while!

While speaking of sad news, many of you will know of Mateo - the little feisty fuzz ball always getting into trouble - well he isn't his usual self at the moment. He has some strange open sores on both his hands that don't seem to want to go away and he is all bandaged up to the shoulders to keep him from chewing at them. He is now being spoiled rotten and refuses to be left alone for more than 5 mins at a time, meaning there is always someone wandering around with him snoozing on their shoulder. He is snoozing on mine as I type this .... :) I think we need to invent some kind of sloth pouch so he can keep out of trouble!

Now Wookie has also experienced a sad series of events involving, unfortunately, his penis. It came out with a fungal infection which was treated and went away, but he couldn't resist scratching the itch which awkwardly caused it to tear and need stitches (I know men reading this are cringing at the thought ...!) Anyway to cut a long traumatic story short he got popped into a nappy / diaper for a few weeks which has allowed everything to heal. Poor Wookie!

Ok so there are a few new characters who I need to introduce you to... baby time!! First comes Oprah. She is a Mateo look-a-like who couldn't be more like Oprah Winfrey herself. She came from Monteverde as we closed the new sanctuary and can be constantly found clinging to her yellow hippo stuffy in the nursery. Massive cutey!


Next came Bindi - she is a little 3-fingered baby from the Pacific coast with a funny little fluffy hair-do. She was found on the ground and with Judy's careful instructions (including finding a real life goat to collect milk from) she was cared for by a woman for the next 3 weeks until someone could get over there to bring her back.

Finally, we have Luigi ! He was brought in clinging to his dying mom and must have only been a day old. His mom passed away shortly after arriving here, and it turned out she had one normal lung, and one tiny underdeveloped lung. Sadly, the stress of giving birth probably pushed her over the edge. Little Luigi is doing great though :)

Now for a new un-slothly arrival .... Puggles ! His/her full official title is actually - Puggles the Mexican, drawf, short-haired, prehensile-tailed tree porcupine. Quite a mouthful! And she is quite a handful too, although cant be sure of the she part since we have no idea how to sex a Puggles. There is potentially even less info available on these guys than there is on sloths which is making raising her a little challenging, and also her spines are turning out challenging to avoid too. However she has these funny little back feet that stick out sideways and are a little too big giving her this comic waddle and she runs havoc. She is awesomeee !!

I have mentioned Eddie the dog in one of my previous posts (the one who got run over by a truck and didn't even break a bone), but anyway he has had quite an eventful few months. One dark stormy night he went down to his usual spot of the lagoon to have a quiet drink when he unfortunately bumped into Coco the crocodile.... Now most dogs would have been mince-meat when faced with a 16-foot hungry beast, but not Eddie. In the morning, all we could see was a blood trail leading from the lagoon up to the house, and Eddie with a limp and tiny cut across his paw . It took a good few hours before we accidentally came across a HUGE hole in his side... then another one... and another. Then after further investigation, we found his canine tooth in the water and claw marks in the concrete leading down to the edge! To this day we have no idea what happened except the croc got a hold of him and Eddie probably bit back scaring him off, but losing a tooth in the process. This had a happy ending though with Eddie recovering super quick and not bathing in the lagoon anymore to cool off (no more stinky-ness!) What an amazing dog - he really does have a cats 9 lives!


Also this month, Randy was finally released. He is the three-fingered male I have mentioned in previous posts - the one who fell from a tree and broke his arm which needed surgery and titanium screws to fix. After a long 7 months with us, he took back to the tree like he had never been away. Hopefully he will come back to visit every now and again to show us how he is doing.


Before his release, he had some very important work to do though. He was the sloth ambassador, helping ICE (telecommunication people) and MINAE (ministry for the environment in Costa Rica) design a device to stop sloths from climbing the power lines and getting electrocuted! He did a fantastic job of proving just how flexible they are and made them all go back to the drawing board to come up with a better design. Randy 1-0 ICE

Now I will do a quick round up of other news including installing a new misting system to cool the sloths off on the super hot days (maybe we will get green algae sloths?) Also, I had a pregnancy scare with one of my study sloths, but after an x-ray it turns out she just has gas, great. Animal Planet have been back filming some more for the documentary... its going to be amazing so keep your eyes peeled. And some amazing news - Buttercup has started coming into heat again after 8 months of being unwell... she is back!! And she even remembered to do the trade-mark thing only she does when she screams - she hooks and folds her arm up over her head and holds her chin - covering both ears ! She is well and truly back to her best! More good news is that the wild 3-fingered mom and baby are still hanging round and doing great, although baby is getting big now! I have added some pictures so you can see :)

Me and Phil Stebbing, filming for Animal Planet:

Mom and baby:

Saturday, 30 April 2011

March AND April with the sloths !!

Ok, so my promise to update this more often fell flat on it's face it seems- but now I have finally got round to it and I have many-a-story to tell....

I will start with an update about my research - things are going great! I am just coming to the end of my second red/green poo chopping episode and digestion took a little longer this time: 32 and 35 days for 2 of my girls and I am still waiting on the last one! I'm not sure why this month had taken longer, it may just be a coincidence based on the fact that they only poop once a week (supposedly...although I seem to have to chop waaaay more than that) or it might somehow be related to the fact that the sun has finally come out and the rainforest has barely rained this month! My daily diaries have been out of use for the last few weeks since I had a MAJOR falling out with the batteries and they all broke simultaneously - that was a horrible day. But I now have new ones and they will be put back into use as soon as I return from my visa-run to Panama (in 3 days time...!) I also received my highest skin temperature reading this month from one of my girls - 35.8 C! This doesn't seem like much considering our core temperature rarely drops below 36, but the normal armpit temp for the sloths seems to range between 28 - 34.5 !! ... It almost appears that they struggle to keep warm - hard to imagine as I'm sweating my arse off chopping up poo pellets.

My sloth poop / leaves lab:

Anyway onto more exciting news, BABIES !! So the twins are still doing great, although they sadly managed to catch mange. This is still somewhat of a mystery considering they have had zero contact with other sloths... hmmm. Anyway they didn't seem to respond to the Achiote seed / coconut oil combo, so Judy took the brave decision to shave their fluffy baby fur off and use a sulphur / lard mixture which literally worked miracles. It sounds grim but actually looked delicious, a bit like lemon icing, almost edible. The poor babies were smothered in the stuff up to their necks, and then wrapped up in bandages to stop it rubbing off (or being licked off....!) The bandages were soon swapped for sloth pyjamas, especially hand-made from gym socks with little arm holes and a flap in case they needed to go poo. I am SO sad I didn't yet have my camera for this moment since it was possibly the cutest thing ever seen. But anyway the mange healed super quickly after this and they are now re-growing their coats. Although still look fairly bald and gangly, tangled up together in the incubator :)

Violet and Sebastian:

Mirra is also doing well, but her pairing with Velcro has somewhat expanded. She is now a (tiny) member of a four-some, with 2 more 2-fingered babies we received this month. Toby was brought in by a lovely woman who had slept with him on her chest for 2 nights until she could find transportation to get him to the sanctuary. He is a gorgeous dark chocolate colour and super chilled out all the time. They were joined shortly by a bright blonde bombshell of a baby, also 2-fingered. He was named yesterday as Will (after the royal wedding... it seemed appropriate, although he is not yet balding!) Now little Mirra is spoilt for choice on who's ears to suckle on. Sadly, at some point she will need to be separated from her buddies since she will be moving onto a different diet.

Mirra and Will:

Mirra and Toby:

Toby, Mirra, Will and Velcro hiding in the background:


Naima is a little ball of fun who arrived here a couple of weeks ago after her mom was killed by a dog. She was found dirty and scared clinging to her mums body before being brought to us by a local man. She is now super energetic and bursting with personality - although still a little bitey!


Laurel is one of our older babies who I mentioned in an earlier post (the fussy eater who would eat nothing but hibiscus leaves...) Well she has had some quite embarrassing farting problems this month! She had been doing great until one morning we found her inflated like a balloon - she was literally huge - think of the girl who blew up like a blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!!! All the gas in her stomach was putting her in some horrible pain and pressing up against her stomach causing her to burp and vomit (or try too... sloths actually can't vomit), so we knew something was seriously wrong. After much dilemma, we rushed her to the vet who knew exactly what to do - he popped her with a pin. This sounds, and looked, ridiculous but it worked perfectly! She just deflated within about 5 seconds and returned to her normal self!! We think she had eaten one too many berros (green leafy vegetable) which had fermented in her stomach causing the gas explosion. Hopefully she has learnt her lesson and won't be pulling that trick again...

As well as receiving babies, we also receive adult sloths who are injured or sick. We had a strange incident this month with an adult 3-fingered female arriving in a human ambulance, complete with police escort. Her escortee's told us simply that "her legs don't work". After putting her into an enclosure, it was quite plain to see that her legs were working perfectly; we still aren't sure why she was brought in. We did however notice that she didn't seem to have any algae or sloth moths which you would expect on a wild sloth. Anyway, after careful observations we attempted to release her on the sanctuary grounds. We put her into a tree on the edge of the forest, and after watching her fumble her way slowly and clumsily up the trunk, had a terrible realisation. This sloth wasn't at home in the trees like you would expect... was she previously captive somewhere else?? This would fit in with the lack of algae... maybe she had never BEEN in a tree before! Our hearts were in out mouths as we watched her ascend into the canopy, praying she wouldn't fall! Luckily she seemed to be a quick learner and over the next few days, finally began look at home up there. She is still hanging around and we are acting guardian angels, keeping a close eye on her!

Anyway, moving away from cute babies and farting sloths, this month has seen my mum & dad finally come out and visit! I finally took some days off and enjoyed some of the touristy things like horse riding and canopy zip-lining - all great fun! Oh and of course spent some time connecting with the inner-sloth, relaxing on some of the many paradise-beaches!

Lucy Cook and Animal Planet finished their first filming trip successfully... I'm not aloud to spill any of the details but it went very well and they will be returning towards the end of June to continue the film. Keep your eyes peeled towards Christmas time when it is due to be aired :)

At the moment I have a few exciting things in the pipeline that (fingers crossed) will work out. As well as having this research project published, I am due to write a spotlight article for New Scientist magazine on sloths at some point in the near future. Me and Judy are also speaking about writing a book - I would be doing the writing and it would mostly consist of her expert sloth-knowledge - all the incredible things that she has learnt over the years about these amazing animals that no one else knows - it is essential to get her brain recorded onto paper and published! This will no doubt take a long time but slowthfully does it ..... :)

And finally to finish this super long post off, I am adding some pictures of all the things I have mentioned in the previous posts but haven't had a camera to get the photos!


Ubu wants cuddles from Rolo:

The leaf always tastes better when it's someone else's:


Little blind Cheyenne:

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Slothing in Feb

I have been terrible at keeping this up to date recently... things have been busy at the sloth sanctuary!! So this is likely to be a very long post, my fingers are aching at the mere prospect of typing all of the February happenings !! Anyway, here we go :-)

This month started with the arrival of Suzie Eszterhas; a proffesional wildlife photographer working for Ranger Rick, a Nat Geo magazine. She stayed here for several weeks taking some incredible shots of the resident sloths and also a few wild visitors. On her very first day here, one of our rehabilitated and released 3-fingered females (Esmerelda) ever so kindly gave birth, came down from her Cecropia tree, crawled right by us showing off her teeny tiny new born baby, then proceded to climb the tree directly infront of us - amazing !!! She is still hanging around (literally) giving us a nice peek at how the baby is doing every now and again.

Also during Suzie's stay here, all of my study females managed to come into heat simulatenously, all yelling for a boyfriend - as 3-fingered females do. They stay in heat for approx 7 - 10 days, during which time they poo/pee everyday and let out very frequent, very high pitched and very loud screams, therefore attracting all the local neighbourhood boys to the sanctuary. We must have had almost 15 wild males decend on my girls over the course of one day !! Now this is great for Suzie, but a problem for manyyy reasons. Firstly, they have a habit of groping my girls through the cages, and I DONT want a pregnant lady sloth in my study (nor do we want pregnant captive sloths full stop). Another problem is that my females are clearly so irresistable that the invading males tend to either rape / attack any other sloth they come across. This was terrible news for Esmerelda and her baby since she was harrased by a fierce 'rapey' male for days. All this tension in the air ment that sloth fights were erupting everywhere, and when two males fight the aim seems to be to throw the other one out the tree. Unfortuntely it rained male sloths for a couple of days. This is a horrible thing to watch happen, but luckily most of the fall-ees were perfectly fine, just a bruised ego.

One of the wild males determined to get into my room (never keep sloth poop in your room)
Volunteers who have been to the sanctuary may be familiar with Randy. He is a wild male that so frequently visits the females he has been named approprately. Obviously, he was on the scene during all the unfolding female drama, but was clearly a lover not a fighter since he sadly was thrown out of his tree during a sloth brawl. As he fell, he hit a branch on the way down, completely smashing all the bones in his upper arm (it was hanging as the most sickening angle ...). He valiently attempted to climb back up the tree, but our staff scooped him up and brought him into the slothpital. The sanctuary couldn't leave him in such a state so sent him on a holiday to San Jose with our vet, Marcelo, for surgery. He is now the proud owner of one bald, titanium-held-together arm sporting impressive scars. The good news is that he is well on the road to recovery and after his final X-ray in April, he will be released back into the forest to be randy once again.

While speaking of release, we released the 2-fingered female fondly known as 'Mom' this month. She arrived almost 7 months ago with a baby and a badly infected dog bite on her shoulder. The wound was treated and she regained full use of her arm but sadly rejected her baby in the process (who is still here and doing fine). After a few complications with the healing, she was ready to go and is now a happy resident of one of the Almond tree's on the sanctuary grounds.

Now the part that everyone loves the best ... babies !!! The twins that I mentioned in my last post are doing brilliantly (named Sebastian and Violet) - they are adorable. To add to the pile of cuteness, on valentines day we recieved the smallest little bundle of fluff on record; a tiny tiny new born 3-fingered baby weighing just 149g and measuring a minute 12cm from nose to teeny tiny tail. She is named Mirra (short for miracle) and is fully formed and perfectly healthy! New borns aren't usually that small, so we think she was probably a twin who was rejected as the weaker one. She is happily paired up with another very small baby recieved this month named Velcro (he is clingy...) but is a 2-fingered, making a very cute pairing.

Half way through the month, we had a group of people bring us an adult 3-fingered female with a baby. They were found on the ground cold and wet, so were brought in to be checked over. It turned out that the female was fine, she had just fallen and gotten too cold to climb back up the tree. On first inspection the baby seemed fine, but upon release she rejected him. He was brought back here and I took him out for a walk - only to notice something a little special - he had no coordination what-so-ever and his left side was very tense and stiff. I took him to see if he could climb which turned out to be a complete disaster - he definately can't climb. We think that he bashed his head when he fell, meaning that, like a human after a severe head injury, he has spasticity. This means that when he tries to clamber about, he can at best only use 3 of his legs, and completely misses the bars with each grab. More often than not he holds onto himself, then lets go with his other arm thinking he is holding on .... so I am always there to catch him. Despite this though, he is doing very well and I take him out daily to practice his climbing technique - He is lovingly now known as Cory.

Me and Cory:

Ok onto my project. I GOT RED POO !!! (very exciting moment for me). It turns out I shouldn't have been looking for a pile of bright red pellets, but when I chop them in half, the inside changes from a normal green colour to a red-ish brown when the dye is present. I discovered this after giving more dye to all my 3 girls, then using a sharp knife to open up every pellet individually. I was able to seperate the pieces into either red or green and make percentages of dye-pellets to normal-pellets. And the news you have all been waiting for - it took 25, 27 and 30 days for my 3 females to produce lovely all green poops for me !!! Thats a long time spent digesting ..... amazing !!!! I am now preparing to repeat this and will be giving them another tasty drink of carmine red over the next couple of days.

I had a minor disaster with the daily diaries - a couple of my batteries broke, meaning I was a battery short. So for the last few days Jewel has been device-less while we arrange new battery packs to be sent out. Apart from this though, everything is going perfectly and I am getting some very interesting data! For starters it seems they can control their body temperature much better than previously stated in the literature!

Poo collection!

Me with Jewel:

So as of today, Animal Planet are here to start filming a sloth sanctuary documentary. The producer, Lucy Cook has some very exciting things in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled towards the end of the year when it will be aired (globally if all goes to plan)!

This is how you get an unwilling 2-fingered sloth out a box .... flowers. Lots of sloth chocolate flowers.

I dont yet have pictures of some of the new babies etc since my camera is still off being fixed. But I am expecting it back over the next couple of weeks so when I do, I will add many-a cute picture !!

I hope all is well with everyone, I WILL write this more often in future to avoid this super long essay situation ..

P.S. my mange is still raging.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

January update

So January began with my carmine red dye finally arriving and my project finally beginning! My first attempt at getting the dye into them involved me not feeding them for 12 hours (so they were super hungry) then smearing it over hibiscus flowers and trying to get them to eat it. This failed miserably since they clearly could smell it and thought it was a bit unusual. I then tried to spread it across Cecropia leaves which also failed, but less so. Brenda ate a few but that's about it. Then to my surprise Jewel developed a taste for the dye-covered flowers and ate a good amount. I decided that this was a pretty bad method so with Judy's help, I let them eat their lunch then syringe fed the dye as a liquid. Turns out they quite liked the taste and drank plenty enough to do the job. I have been collecting and mashing the poo ever since - waiting for it to turn red! But I have no idea what to expect so it's fairly nerve racking. It has been 2 weeks since they were given the carmine red, and as of yet, the poo is still a lovely brown / green colour. Who knows what is going to happen ... ! Oh and also, Brenda has developed a worrying habit of shoving her head through the roof of her enclosure and getting it stuck there. At which point she just flails around uselessly kylestyle and waits for me to come and save the day. I hope she quits this game soon.

Felice settling into her new enclosure:
Jewel and the signs I have now put up:

About 2 weeks ago, we received a tiny new born baby brought to us by a police officer. Its mother had been giving birth in a park in Limon when some children began to stone her. She was so traumatised by everything going on that the baby fell straight from her, ripping the umbilical cord as he went. The police collected him from the bottom of the tree and brought him here, but sadly didn't prosecute the children, or save the mother. Judy and Marcelo stitched up the tiny babies' stomach as I held it's little hands, but sadly he died overnight, probably from injuries sustained through the fall.
More sad baby news - Over the last 2 weeks we have also lost Athena, Puca and Jacque Noel (the new baby born in December). I miss them LOTS, they were all super sweet, kylestyle. Me and Marcelo did the Necropsy's for all those who died recently as well as Topo Gigio. All the babies seemed to have aspirated milk and Topo has fluid in his lungs. It's still a bit of a mystery what happened, but I'm sure the recent 'cold' spell didn't help. Jacque Noel always had the Apnea problem where he would stop breathing after every feed, but we always hoped he would grow out of it - sadly not. But in true sloth style, with every loss we seem to be brought a new baby.
We recieved a new one a couple of days ago, now named Yodo. He was rescued after his tree was chopped down killing his mum. A family held on to him for a couple of days and unfortunately gave him cows milk, so as of yet, we dont know if he is going to make it. Today, we found a whole bunch of ticks on him and I had the job of pulling them all off with tweezers - all 70 of them !!! Looks like they had babies. Here are a couple of pictures:
Claire starting the de-ticking process:

Laurel is the baby I mentioned in the last post that would eat nothing but hibiscus - she is doing well and has finally started accepting almond leaves. However after weighing her we think she is probably only around 6 or 7 months old - far too young to know how to survive on her own. But she is super happy and eating well ! Timothy is another slightly older baby brought to us from Cahuita. He too was found on the ground, cold and very hungry! After eating A LOT he collapsed and had probably his best sleep for a long time! We have handled him as little as possible since to try and help him settle in, but today we inspected him and found a huge dog bite across his stomach. No wonder he was so scared. It looks ok though and will be stitched up as soon as possible.
Finally, Lola was brought to us by a woman not far away. She had found her alone, but had then kept her and tried to raise her for about 4 weeks. During this time she phoned Judy for advice and was convinced to bring the baby in for proper care. When she got here she was starving to death and dehydrated. She settled in after a few days and loved her goats milk and carrots- she was putting on weight nicely. Then today the same woman turned up demanding her baby back - we have no power to say no so despite our best efforts to persuade her otherwise, she took poor Lola back. I have no doubt we will see her again, I just hope she doesn't wait until it's too late to save her.

So despite all this, most of the sloths are doing well - except for the recent mange outbreak !!! It's hugely common in sloths and we get wild ones coming in to us all the time covered in it. Mange is basically a type of parasitic mite that burrows into the skin and causes a huge itchy mess. Even I have managed to catch it, even though it is supposed to be species specific - I am now a TRUE sloth wrangler. Today we decided it was time to get rid of it from the babies before it spreads any further. Unfortunately, we can't give them Ivermectin which is what any other animal would be given. So we use natural remedies - which has had a quite funny outcome. We mixed Achiote seeds with coconut oil, forming a bright red oily dye that we massaged into the skin. So we now have a whole bunch of permanently BRIGHT red sloth babies, and a bright red buttercup. It looks ridiculous. I had to include some photos -
Ubu after his dye treatment:
Me and Ubu:


Stephanie and Cosmo :

So all in all January (so far) has been a fairly dramatic and rainy month - although the sun has come out this last week and given us some beautiful weather finally! Despite all the drama though, the last 2 months have probably been the best yet ... I have met some amazing people and my project is finally looking up :-)

Lets all please keep our fingeres crossed for red poo in 2 weeks time ....