On the 26th of June 2017, which was a national holiday in my country, I was called by an outpatient caretaker. While visiting a patient she had seen a baby sloth in a bush along the road, and when she saw it again on her way back, all wet and alone, she decided that she would take it along and bring it to me. She called, on her way back from the patient, and asked if she could bring the animal. When the bus from the outpatient healthcare facility stopped in front of my door, it was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I was alone in the house, taking care of the different animals we had around. When she came in, I had not expected to see such a tiny animal. Often people say they have a baby sloth for us, and then they show up with fully grown adults. Which I guess attests to their cuteness as a species, which is definitely not always in their favor. The family name of the rescuer was Jinkoe, so I decided to call this animal Jinkoe. The animal looked as if it had just been born, the face still all wrinkled. If we were successful in keeping the animal alive, this baby would be one of the first animals to grow up in the sloth rescue center, instead of my living room in the city.
Almost one week later, we were called by the Paramaribo Zoo that they had found a baby sloth in the fence of the Ostrich enclosure. They had looked for the mother in the trees, but had not found her. So I went to the zoo and picked up this baby which was a bit more sturdy than Jinkoe and appeared to be maybe a month older. This animal that was called Ostrich after the location where it was found, was each night put in the same incubator in which we kept Jinkoe at night. The two animals started to become attached to each other, and we could see that although they each had their own surrogate sloth mother, they would sometimes sit together and hold on to each other. During the move on the 31stof July 2017 they were left behind with one of our volunteers in the city, and they were going to be picked up, as soon as we would be more or less settled a few days later.
When we moved these two babies to the sloth center, we did not yet have electricity, because the batteries for storing the energy were delayed, as they had fallen off a truck while being transported to the supplier in Holland. So each night they were brought to the incubator that was located temporarily in one of the houses at the front of our drive-way one km away. In the morning, when we picked them up, we would find some fresh leaves from the Inga tree species. They immediately starting chewing, boy, did they love these leaves! Finally, mid October our solar system was installed and working. The incubator was moved to the center, and the animals were no longer brought up and down the road to their nightly sleepover in the incubator. Now Jinkoe and Osje were here to stay all the day around. Slowly, but surely Ostrich was growing and Jinkoe stayed behind. We were so worried that she would not make it, because she obviously had missed some crucial first weeks with her mother. However, as time passed by we could see that she was maybe getting whatever it was she needed from her BFF, Ostrich.
Her face, which remained for the longest while underdeveloped somehow, started finally to develop. And while Ostrich, the bigger of the two, liked to lounge and enjoy the food she was given. Isa, who had also moved there with us, was the bigger sister, who would sit with the two of them in the jungle gym, and she would sometimes venture out into the tree. Jinkoe started following her example, while Ostrich would not venture further than the jungle gym, even though she was bigger and should be more mature. , Jinkoe started exploring more and more, and started wandering off into the forest in search of fresh leaves herself. Jinkoe would first crawl over the terrace towards the Cecropia tree right in front of the building – we devised a special bridge for them – so they could come and go as they wished. Then she started venturing out to the back terrace, into a palm tree and then she would disappear for a few days.
It was a pleasure to see how she was growing and how one year later, in July of 2018, Jinkoe had now become a big and independent sloth. A female, and although she did not take to Angel, a new baby arrival in July 2018. She did take to baby Rory who arrived several weeks after Angel. Rory would sit with her, and she would take Rory out into the trees. We were worried when we saw she came back without Rory on one of these trips. But when we saw Rory again and brought her back home, Rory went straight for the terrace and followed the route Jinkoe had taught her and left again. Her adventures with Jinkoe had clearly shown her a faster way to maturity than Jinkoe and Ostrich had experienced. Likewise did Angel. Angel was lugged over the floor by Ostrich, every time Ostrich would leave Angel, the animal would start crying for her surrogate mother. However, one fine day, as the two of them left for the trees, Ostrich came back without Angel. Angel had suddenly matured and decided to stay in the trees. Only a month ago, did we see Angel back again.
Jinkoe and Ostrich were now often more in the trees than in their buckets or the jungle gym at the center. However, they liked coming home. Ostrich was staying longer and longer in the trees and Jinkoe also often stayed for almost a week at a time in the trees. Then something happened that we had not anticipated. As of January 2019 an unusual drought was experienced. We had an unusual number of rescues with many animals in poor condition. We had our largest number of underweight infants abandoned by their mothers ever. We were rescuing animals at the rate of almost one a day, and giving many of them additional fluids. Meanwhile at the center everything seemed to be normal.
Jinkoe would often venture home, we would feed her, and she would leave again. Nothing seemed unusual. Sometimes she was home, together with her BFF Ostrich and they would together lounge in the big bucket they could always call their home. Nothing seemed unusual. And then I received a call, Jinkoe had fallen out of the Cecropia tree right in front of the building and she was not responding well, as she was lying on her back. She was immediately brought to the city, as we could not reach the veterinary doctor in our district, and we could not wait. Veterinary Audrey gave her a full check up, and was not very positive. She gave her subcutaneous fluids and she started responding again. The animal had apparently lost a lot of weight and appeared to be very skinny and was dehydrated. The animal was brought to my house as she had to be treated again the following day. She had to drink. How would I get her to drink? And I suddenly remembered how crazy these animals were for the milk we had given them when they were small. So I gave her some of the milk and she started to drink.
In the weeks that followed we kept her under constant monitoring, were providing her with additional food and fluids, and were hoping that the neurological problems caused by the fall would heal in approximately a month. When I visited the center on Good Friday, I noticed she was not doing so well. Although she enthusiastically ate, I still felt that her energy was failing her, and her kidneys seemed to give her problems. Maybe the dehydration had caused damage to her kidneys, and she had to cope with that in addition to healing from the fall. On Saturday evening, I could see she was not going to make it, she was in pain. We gave her a painkiller. When I left that evening I knew I would not see her back alive.
I wanted to write her life history, because when I received Jinkoe, I had great doubts whether she would make it. She did, she became one of the first inhabitants of the sloth rescue center. The center did her well, while in the city she probably would not have made it. The environment of the center and the forest surrounding it, created for a baby like her the chances to survive. She owned the sloth center, and she owned the forest. However, as she was less sturdy and resilient, the unusual drought caused by climate change may have cut her life short. On balance, I am convinced that Jinkoe had a good life. And I will miss seeing her in the forest and her home.