Sunday, 29 September 2013

A GPS Success

I am delighted to announce that following the success of the Save Our Sloths campaign, we have been able to tag a wild sloth with a GPS tracking backpack for the first time.
This exciting little backpack contains a VHF radio transmitter, a Daily Diary data logger and a rechargeable GPS tracker that will record the sloths' exact location every 30 minutes.



THE TECHNOLOGY


The tiny GPS tag that we have used is actually a test unit. I have been in contact with a great Italian company who have offered to custom build GPS tags specifically for the sloths. These tags will be designed so that the sloths body position and the dense rainforest canopy don't obstruct the GPS from finding a satellite signal. The data we collect from this backpack is going to be used by the GPS company to design and build the perfect tags for our project.

THE SLOTH


Meet Madonna: one of the most peaceful and gentle wild sloths we have ever had the pleasure of working with. Madonna was brought to us by a local hotel owner after she had reportedly fallen out of her tree onto the building roof. Thankfully she was absolutely fine, but after an X-ray, we quickly noticed that she was pregnant.


This stroke of luck came at just the right time. By tagging Madonna with the backpack, we will be able to collect a huge amount of important data. We will be able to see when (and how) she gives birth, how long she nurses her baby for, and exactly how she teaches her baby all of those important life skills needed to survive in the forest. This is exactly what we have been waiting for! Of course, designing a backpack for a pregnant sloth was a challenge in itself. We had to make it adjustable and ensure that it didn't obstruct the nipples and prevent the baby from suckling. After several different designs, we finally came up with a winner.


THE RELEASE


We took Madonna deep into the forest on a 120 hectare protected island within the sanctuary grounds. We traveled initially by boat and then on foot. Madonna was so relaxed and gentle on the journey there was no need for a kennel - she was clearly enjoying the sights and sounds of being back in the forest. We put her into a beautiful big tree that we know is frequented by many three-fingered sloths in the area. Hopefully she will adapt well to being back out in the wild and will teach us a huge amount about how wild sloths live and most importantly how they raise their young. 

I will be spending a lot of time over the next few years following Madonna. I will also be looking to tag other sloths in the area, preferably a pregnant two-fingered female! Hopefully, through the information we will gain from this work, we will be able to apply our knowledge to develop our release program.
I look forward to sharing Madonna's adventures with you over the next few years!
x

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