Sloth Adventures   1 comment

So I’ve joked a little bit in earlier posts about starting other side projects in addition to my research that I’m doing with herbicides here at Finmac, but this week that idea suddenly become reality. Although it’s not a chocolate-testing project like I imagined, it’s still an experience unique to Costa Rica: I have started helping my neighbor and his assistant with the sloth research that they are conducting. It all started the day I returned to Finmac after our midterm report in San José; that day Geovanny and Adiel found a baby sloth that had been separated from its mother, so they brought it home for the day/night (so it wouldn’t be in danger). I, of course, was more than willing to help care for it. Our attempt the next night to reunite it with is mother was not successful – for some reason she has abandoned her baby. Therefore, we have become its surrogate family. We give him goat’s milk (cow’s milk would be fatal to a sloth) and leaves to eat. He’s almost old enough to feed himself, but he still loves milk. We’ve also started “tree training” him: when we first had him he spent most of his time in a box with a little “nest” and t-shirt to cling to, but he’s getting more and more active by the night (like the night he stayed with me when Geovanny was gone and pulled himself out of the box). However, when he’s put in a tree by himself, he cries (I would call it a “yip”) quite a bit and moves around too much, so it might be dangerous for him to spend a night outside. The solution: a makeshift tree (a big branch) placed above his box/nest in Geovanny’s house, so he gets used to spending time there and finding his food when he’s awake at night. It has been a really neat experience: yes, he’s adorable and it’s fun to have a “pet”, but also once we realized we weren’t able to reunite him with his mom it became Geovanny’s goal to get him ready to survive on his own in the wild, so we’re doing what we can not to coddle him (too much).

The next sloth-related adventure that I got to have was when I went with Geovanny at night to go sloth hunting (sloth-searching): he didn’t really believe me when I said I saw two sloths together at a certain part of the farm and so he wanted to go see them at night, and additionally thought that the female there might be a possible surrogate mother for our orphan because she had recently separated from her own pup. It was so neat – I really really really should have brought my camera with me. We saw 5 sloths – I was close enough to touch 4 of them. We also crossed paths with a bunch of other animals: about 6 armadillos, we got to watch the caiman as it caught and ate fish, got to approach a bascaliscus (Jesus Christ lizard – which are really hard to get close to during the day). We left our little sloth with the female that we found: she seemed okay with it at the time and our little guy was happy.

The next day, however, she had abandoned him, and he had some wounds from some sort of fight (he was also about 800 m from where we left him – we were lucky to have found him!). Poor guy had a stressful night; he’ll be staying with us a while longer. The rest of the day I spent walking around with Geovanny and Adiel as they located sloths and took information about their location, as well as captured a few to take samples for genetic information. I thought last night was amazing to see five sloths – today I saw at least 10, and held 2 more (besides carrying around the re-rescued orphan all day).

I’ll use pictures to help describe the experience:

One morning I helped take samples from this guy – he was pretty fiesty:

The process actually begins by using a radio antenna to locate the area that the sloth is in:

Then, you have to search the surrounding trees to find the little dark spot. The next step usually involves Adiel climbing a tree, and having a nice little struggle with the sloth to get it down:

We took samples from this little guy, and gave him a microchip in return. He was happy to go back with him mom when we were done.

And there were many others that we saw, including these two drug addicts (they were eating form a plant that has hallucinogenic effects): 

They sleep in such funny positions:

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Posted April 1, 2011 by rwieme in Uncategorized

One response to “Sloth Adventures

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  1. Hi Rachel
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog and especially like all the pictures you include. Hope the rest of your time there is great. We are supposed to get some snow tomorrow, so soak in a little extra sunshine for me!! Have fun. Kim

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