Belle: Feeling better every day

Rescued Bradypus Belle in rehab on a treeBelle came to us in late April, a rescue from nearby Cahuita National Park. She was found alone in the forest and had a severe case of mange, covered in scabs. After several months of treatments, including vitamins to improve her immune system, this beautiful Bradypus is almost ready to join her friends on the jungle gym. Presently, she is in a special isolated area of the NICU and we have installed a climbing tree specifically for her use. Here’s sweet Belle today, basking in the warm (and healing) Costa Rican sun!

Belle llegó a nosotros a fines de abril, rescatada en las cercanías del Parque Nacional Cahuita. Fue encontrada sola en la selva y presentaba un caso severo de sarna, cubierta de costras. Después de varios meses de tratamiento, incluyendo vitaminas para potenciar su sistema inmune, esta bella Bradypus está casi lista para reunirse con sus amigos en el gimnasio de la selva. Actualmente, ella está en una área especial aislada en la UCIN e instalamos un árbol especial de escalada para su uso. Esta es Belle asoleándose (y curándose) bajo el sol Costarricense!

The rescue of Stacy & Peggy: Part 1

One of the Sanctuary’s core goals is raising awareness for sloths and educating people about the challenges they face. When a sloth is rescued and brought to us, a new chapter begins in the life of that animal. Just as when someone you know has a serious injury to recover from, the trajectory of their life changes. A recent rescue that has been emotional for us is that of Stacy and her baby Peggy. We will share Part 1 of the story with you today.

A mother sloth and her baby arrive at the SanctuaryAn elegant adult female Choloepus was rescued by a bombero (firefighter), who brought her to the Sanctuary in a small wood box typically used for snakes. It was all he had available to transport this injured sloth. After a long bumpy ride in the dark, unventilated box, the sloth emerged disoriented, wet, dirty—with a newborn clinging to her. Staff veterinarians Camila Dünner and Gabriel Pastor examined the pair immediately. Dra. Dünner recalls:

“It was clear to us that the mother could not move her left arm. We let her rest for a few hours, then examined her again under anesthesia. Her arm was very swollen and presented deep infected injuries and some puncture wounds all the way down to the palm. We also discovered the distal part of the ulna was exposed (close to the wrist) and probably broken. This was just before our X-ray arrived, and we have since confirmed the break.

“We shaved her arm fur for access to the wounds, then cleaned, disinfected, immobilized and bandaged her arm. We then started Stacy on systemic antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and vitamin therapy. The treatment procedure needs to be repeated weekly until the arm has fully healed.

“Seldom do we receive both the mother and baby in a rescue, so we took great care to honor their bond. We named the healthy baby Peggy and will strive to keep them together throughout the treatments.”

In this instance of an injured adult sloth being rescued and rehabilitated, our primary focus is on their release back to the wild. We will keep you posted on the progress. Stacy and Peggy have been wonderful patients thus far, despite the stress. We are giving them the best possible care we can. Thank you for your support.

Donated digital X-ray heralds a new era of care at the Sloth Sanctuary

New digital X-ray provides a higher level of care for rescued sloths. We are thrilled to announce the installation of a new digital X-ray machine at the Sanctuary. This equipment takes the quality of medical assessments to an entirely higher level, and veterinarian Dra. Camila Dünner wants to share why this is such exciting news:

“This digital X-ray allows us to see mainly hard tissue (bones), the distribution, texture and contours of a sloth’s organs. Although all X-rays emit radiation, few expositions in time are worth this minimal risk, as this diagnostic tool shows us the inside of the body without resorting to invasive techniques.

A perfect example is Momo, an adult male Choloepus. One of our keepers reported Momo had not defecated or urinated in 5 days, a sure sign that something was wrong. We anesthetized Momo and could see he was having trouble breathing and a really distended abdomen. Through physical examination, we determined there was excess fluid in his abdomen. But exactly where was this fluid building up? In his stomach? His bladder? This is how the X-ray makes a huge difference. The first radiograph of his abdomen clearly showed his enlarged bladder, obstructed, which in turn was compressing his thorax. Armed with this specific information, we treated this obstruction without surgery or even a puncture. As a result, his stomachs and thorax resumed to their normal positions and Momo’s condition is back to normal.

You might remember Lupe, the baby Choloepus rescued in late August. At the time of her rescue we did not have the X-ray machine. She was in obvious distress with a distended belly. We had to puncture her abdomen several times and then go for an exploratory surgery, only to determine she had a bladder paralysis caused by spinal trauma. Being able to see inside by X-ray could have saved her from the physical stress of surgery and us the precious time to diagnose her condition. We would never have put her through surgery if we had been able to see her spinal trauma.

Another excellent piece of equipment recently purchased with donations will be an ultrasound scanner—arriving soon! Ultrasound is a painless way to see soft tissue texture and differentiation, blood flow, heart function and even pregnancy. These equipment upgrades allow us to perform focused medicine on our rescued and resident sloths, offering the best care available. They enhance our ability to respond to emergencies and to determine rehabilitation paths for both wild and rescued sloths.”

Dr. Pastor reviews the digital X-ray on the monitor.This equipment, purchased by generous donors, heralds a new era at the Sloth Sanctuary. Having the ability to optimally serve sloths’ medical needs also contributes to research and conservation strategies. We are also grateful to SIRE in San José, Costa Rica, for their generosity, training and technical expertise. We are so honored that you, our supporters, have made this essential and cutting-edge equipment an integral addition to our “Slothpital”.

International Sloth Day is October 17

International Sloth Day was created by Foundation AIUNAU to increase awareness and conservation of these unique mammals and their habitat. While at the Sanctuary every day is focused around sloths, on October 17th we join the world in celebrating sloths everywhere and the rainforest that is their home. Happy International Sloth Day!

The release of Ross

Ross in pre-release treeThe single most gratifying act at the Sanctuary is the release of a rescued, rehabilitated sloth. Take Ross, for example, brought to us on August 5th by a compassionate and swift-acting family in Filadelfia, Beverly, Limon. They had spotted a Choloepus in distress, limply hanging by one arm, entangled in a barbed wire fence. They delicately placed the sloth in a laundry basket and drove it to the Sanctuary, naming it Rosita along the way. Sanctuary veterinarians Dra. Camila Dünner Oliger and Dr. Gabriel Pastor Nicolai assessed it, determined it to be a juvenile male and revised his name to Ross.

Ross was in shock and severely dehydrated, probably from suffering on the barbe1.A-Ross-FB-post-in-bandages_092015d wire for more that 24 hours. His entire right arm was bruised, swollen and infected. The vets had to anesthetize him to clean, treat and bandage his wounds. They prescribed an intensive regimen of anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, vitamins and immune stimulants. He required weekly dressing changes with a total of five anesthesia sessions until his arm had fully healed and he was ready for rehabilitation. He regained strength and mobility in his arm during consistent and regular climbing practice, then it was time for his pre-release test.

We have a special Almond Tree (Two-fingered sloths’ fave leaves) enclosure along the river where it’s easy to observe a pre-release candidate. Ross did great! He climbed up naturally, then hung out for a while, enjoying the familiar environment of a tree. He showed us he was ready for complete freedom.2-Ross-FB-post_Judy-oversees-release_092015

So we returned him to his habitat in Beverly because of his knowledge of his mother’s home range. We noted an abundance of trees and other wild sloths, which would give Ross the best chance for survival. Habitat fragmentation due to development is detrimental to sloths’ well-being. If they need to transfer to trees by crossing over barbed wire, power lines or areas with guard dogs, injury or death is highly likely. We were satisfied with Ross’ enthusiasm as he climbed into a big Poró tree. On our way back, we saw a mother and baby sloth way6-Ross-FB-post-C-and-G-tree-1_092015 up in the canopy. Was she Ross’ mother, perhaps? Muddy, sweaty, insect-bitten—it was all worth it for us, knowing Ross was back home.    7-Ross-FB-post_And-he-is-off_092015

Earth Day 2015 Commemorative Plaques are on display

Earth Day 2015 Almond tree donor plaquesThe Earth Day 2015 donor plaques have been unveiled! Judy Avey-Arroyo partnerd with our woodworking wizard, Donald, to create these onsite at the Sanctuary, where the triptych is now on display.

We are humbled by our donors’ generosity and support of our organization and, foremost, our mission of sloth rescue, rehabilitation, research and release-and the conservation of the Costa Rican rainforest. We truly appreciate these contributions that are already being put to good use with the expansion of the NICU, new incubators, long-needed medical equipment and more.

Young Almond trees in our burgeoning orchardThe young Almond Trees (Terminalia catappa) were planted in early June and are beginning to stretch their roots during our “Green” rainy season. Leaves from the more mature trees are used in feeding the rescued sloths under our care, as well as passing wild sloths.

For this year’s plaques, we have an In Memoriam section to honor lost loved ones and we are so touched to see their names and memories kept alive in our corner of the world like treasured blooms. Other honorees and celebrations included donors’ spouses, children, parents, friends’ babies, anniversaries and new marriages. ¡Que maravilloso!

Donations were made from all over the world, including Japan, Australia, Canada, the USA, the UK, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands. To those who donated, we send our profound thanks.

For those who wish to be included going forward, please see our Support us page, scroll to the Earth Day section, and donate securely via PayPal. On behalf of the sloths of Costa Rica, we extend our sincere thanks.

Choloepus graduation day

Choloepus sloths moving to the NurseryIt’s back-to-school in many countries, but in our little corner of Costa Rica, seven rescued Choloepus sloths just graduated from the Sanctuary’s NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to our Juvenile Nursery.

An infant sloth cannot regulate its own body temperature for several months. In the wild, the mother protects the baby and keeps it warm on her belly while she forages for leaves in tree branches. After about six months of clinging onto her belly, observing her behaviors and learning her dietary preferences, the baby is allowed exploration and solo forays. The baby has been learning essential skills and self-reliance from the comfort of the mother’s proximity, knowing it can return to her.

At about 12 months, the mother initiates the first phase of independence: social weaning, when she moves away to an adjacent territory, but not so close that the baby can easily return. The baby is completely on its own but in very familiar territory, armed with the memory of its mother’s leaf preferences and foraging practices.

Because our rescued sloths were orphaned/abandoned, we substitute the warm belly with an incubator, branch climbing practice with jungle gym exercise and leaf preferences for those we observe to be enjoyed by most sloths. NICU babies are fed four leaf-based meals plus goat milk for added nutrition. After about a year in the NICU, when babies can naturally thermoregulate their bodies, it’s graduation time.

In the Juvenile Nursery, the babies eat the same diet as in the NICU, but just three meals and no milk. Their enclosures are larger so there is more room to explore, and the growing babies get stronger via exercise on a larger jungle gym. Graduation is a milestone for these rescued sloths!

Conservationist Jeff Corwin

Jeff-Corwin-visited-the-Sanctuary_052215
“A wonderful heart tugging moment at [the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, where] they have nearly 200 rescued orphaned and injured sloths that they are saving, true conservation heroes fighting to protect this ultimate ambassador for Costa Rica! … Cheers, Jeff”
Earlier this week we were honored to welcome celebrity conservationist and “Ocean Mysteries” host Jeff Corwin at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica.

Read about Jeff’s visit and see videos with some of our sweet-faced rescued baby Choloepus sloths on Jeff Corwin’s Facebook page and his Twitter feed.

Muchas gracias to Jeff for stopping by to see what we do at the Sanctuary and to highlight how important it is to preserve sloths in the Costa Rican rainforest.

Jeff Corwin and Judy Avey-Arroyo
Conservationist Jeff Corwin, Sloth Sanctuary Founder and Director Judy Avey-Arroyo and, of course, Buttercup!