Rat Poisoning Gone Wrong in Nickerie? – A Major Threat to Wildlife, Livestock, and Human Health and Well-being

Source: Sykes, J. E., Reagan, K. L., Nally, J. E., Galloway, R. L., & Haake, D. A. (2022). Role of Diagnostics in Epidemiology, Management, Surveillance, and Control of Leptospirosis. Pathogens, 11(4), 395. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens11040395

The western District of Nickerie has been struggling with a rat invasion for several months, leading to several human deaths due to Weil’s disease. Although a suggestion was made to introduce cats, which are notoriously absent in the rice district, this practical and nature-friendly remedy still needs to be adopted. In the meantime, the rat population continued to grow and wreak havoc on the rice district’s agricultural harvests.

Rat poison

In a well-intended but maybe misguided gesture, 500 kilograms of rat poison was donated to the rice district. To date (2 January 2023), 10 cows and 17 goats have died mysteriously. According to Parliamentarian Yogi in an article on Starnieuws: “Rat poisoning should be carried out under the supervision of experts. And it must be checked that the correct pesticide is used.”

Dr. Julian Pengel, neurologist, believes: “…that the choice of an anticoagulant is the right one. If one starts to use neurotoxins, you are really on the wrong path! That is according to the scenario that was described of what happened. The farmers purchased illegal poisons at first. ”

He continues and emphatically states: “Neurotoxins (acetylcholine esterase inhibitors), instead of blood-clotting agents (coumarin anticoagulants), should never be used for this purpose! Firstly, these substances are water-soluble in contrast to blood-clotting agents, and can therefore spread more quickly and, for example, end up in water that humans and animals consume. Secondly, it is a far too dangerous poison which, in the event of accidents, is hardly treatable for humans and animals and often ends fatally.”

Rat poison, also known as rodenticide, is a widespread and harmful pest control product used to kill rats, mice, and other rodents. Rat poison poses a severe risk to non-target animals, including birds of prey, carnivores, and even humans, due to its toxic and persistent effects.

According to recent studies and reports, rat poison can cause various adverse effects on wildlife, livestock, and the ecosystem. For example, rat poison can be ingested by predatory animals that feed on poisoned rodents, leading to a process called “secondary poisoning,” which can cause internal bleeding, organ damage, and death. Rat poison can also affect animals’ reproductive and immune systems and impair their behavior and cognitive abilities.

Rat poison can be harmful to livestock if ingested. Livestock may accidentally eat rat poison if left in an area where they have access to it or eat feed contaminated with it. Ingestion of rat poison can lead to various symptoms in livestock, including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness, tremors, seizures, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, ingestion of rat poison can be fatal to livestock.

Furthermore, rat poison can contaminate the soil, water, and plants and enter the food chain, affecting the health and survival of many species, including endangered ones. Rat poison can also pose a risk to humans, especially children, who consume contaminated food or water or come into contact with poisoned animals, including pets.

Some rat poison products contain warfarin, bromadiolone, or coumatetralyl, anticoagulant chemicals that interfere with blood clotting, causing internal bleeding and death. These poisons can be lethal to humans in high doses. They may require hospitalization and treatment, such as vitamin K injections, to reverse their effects.

One Health Approach

Because of these impacts, adopting a One Health approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health and promotes the use of safer and more sustainable pest control methods is essential.

One Health strategies can include:

  • Sanitation: Keep one’s property clean and free of food debris and clutter. Rats are attracted to food and shelter, so maintaining a clean environment will make it less attractive to them.
  • Habitat modification: Removing sources of shelter and food for rats, such as piles of wood or debris, can help reduce their population.
  • Exclusion: Sealing holes and gaps in buildings and other structures can prevent rats from entering and nesting on one’s property.
  • Hiring a rat catcher can be an effective way to remove rats from one’s property and prevent them from returning, without relying on chemicals or other potentially harmful methods. However, it’s important to ensure that the rat catcher uses humane methods to capture and remove the rats, and that any trapped rats are released in a suitable location away from human habitation.
  • Education and awareness: Educating people in the community about the importance of One Health and the steps they can take to prevent rat infestations can help reduce the spread of these pests.
  • Collaboration: Working with other stakeholders, such as local authorities, health professionals, and environmental organizations, can help coordinate efforts to control rat infestations and address other One Health issues in the community.
  • Encouraging natural predators of rats, such as owls and snakes, to live on one’s property can be an effective method of controlling rat infestations in agricultural areas. This approach aligns with the principles of One Health, as it involves considering the interconnections between human, animal, and environmental health and taking a holistic approach to addressing health issues.

By encouraging natural predators to live on one’s farm, one can help control the rat population in a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable way, without relying on chemicals or other potentially harmful methods. However, it’s important to consider the potential impacts on other species and the ecosystem as a whole when encouraging the presence of natural predators.

It is also important to consider the potential impacts on the ecosystem as a whole when removing rats from an area. In some cases, removing rats from an ecosystem can have unintended consequences, such as triggering a population explosion of another species that was previously kept in check by the rats. Therefore, it’s important to consider the potential ecological impacts of rat control measures and to take a cautious, well-informed approach.

Dr. Pengel emphasizes: “…that there needs to be better regulation and control on the use of poisons. And that the use of poison should be restricted, and preferably the alternative measures mentioned in the One Health approach should be taken. According to Pengel, the decision to work with poison is the right one for this mass disruption. But we should not always go for this rigorous method!”

We can protect the health and well-being of all living beings and preserve the balance and diversity of our planet by addressing the issue of rat infestations comprehensively and collaboratively.

PREZODE Initiative

Green Heritage Fund Suriname is a member of the PREZODE (Preventing ZOonotic Disease Emergence) initiative. Prezode is an innovative international initiative that aims to understand the risks of emerging zoonotic infectious diseases. Prezode wishes to develop and implement innovative methods to improve prevention, early detection, and resilience to ensure rapid response to the risks of emerging infectious diseases of animal origin. GHFS calls on the Surinamese government to become a signatory of the Prezode Initiative.

Advice:

It is essential to use caution when using rat poison and to store it in a place where it is not accessible to livestock. You should contact a veterinarian for treatment if you suspect your livestock may have ingested rat poison.

KWAKWAs AND DOKSIs

Since I am not a real boiti sma*, nor a lover of duck meat, probably because I grew up with Donald Duck (and I am now a vegetarian), the signs along the side of the road that advertise the sale of live animals, are not always understandable to me. I always look with question marks in my head at the signs that offer kwakwas, doksis and doksas for sale. A good friend helped me by telling me that doksi and doksa are the terms for female and male ducks. But what a kwakwa is, he couldn’t tell me either. So I decided to ask my then assistant Chantal, a real rural child who grew up between the kwakas.

Suriname has 11 species of duck that occur in the wild, and one of these ducks, the tame version, is also raised and is known as the doksi. The kwakwa, however, is a species that was imported and is also known as the Peking duck, a beautiful white duck, and a really domesticated animal. The ducks form a family of swimming birds. The muscovy duck, better known to us as doksi, is the only genus of the Cairina, and has the species name Cairina moschata. The tame muscovy ducks are loved because they are so tame and have an excellent breeding urge.

Life for the wild muscovy duck, however, is challenging. This typical South American bird has less and less space left in the wild and is also heavily hunted. In Suriname, this wild duck is rarely seen. Another problem facing the wild duck, also called bus’doksi, is that by cross-breeding with tame ducks, the population of wild ducks in the countries around us, is also declining. However, according to international standards, there is still no cause for concern regarding the decline of these animals in the wild.

The doksi is a large water bird with a typical red wart spot around the eyes. The wild muscovy duck has this to a much lesser extent. Furthermore, the reasonably large animal has short legs with large swimming feet. The doksa, the drake or male duck, is much larger than the doksi, sometimes up to twice as big as the female. The doksi can also fly much better than the doksa. The kwakwa is even bigger than the doksi or doksa and is mainly held for the eggs and the meat, and is, of course, the animal that stood model for my youth hero: Donald Duck.

Of course, you have also seen the ducks packed in a cage alongside the road, sometimes as many as 15 animals in the blazing sun, without water or food. A condition unworthy of humanity and a torment for the animals. As a vegetarian, it is strange to see how people treat their (still living) food. Is it not more logical to treat what you are going to eat with the utmost care? I hope that the kwakwa, doksi and doksa holders feel encouraged to treat their “goods” better and will not leave them in the sun for hours, packed together and without water. Thank you!

* boiti sma = Sranan word for someone who lives in a rural area

An anteater on the mailbox

May 24th 2022

Today, we received a notification of an anteater, which was found in the middle of a residential area. The person who found the anteater was very concerned with the animal’s safety. He had called several organizations to collect the animal. Fortunately, one of them referred him to us. As soon as we were called, we immediately got into the car to go to the animal.

We had already spotted the anteater from the car and we saw a gentleman waving at us a few meters away. He had set up a bowl of water for the animal and had even chased the dogs from the neighbourhood away, in order to keep the animal safe.

 

The anteater was sitting by the mailbox and had been given a bowl of water.

Monique Pool, the director of GHFS, first tried to catch the animal with the net. The anteater then climbed down the fence, making it more difficult to catch the animal with the net. It was easier to catch the animal with the gloves. Less than five minutes later, the animal was captured and we were able to take it with us so we can release it back to the wild as soon as possible!

Monique Pool tries to catch the animal with the net

Monique Pool tries to catch the animal with the gloves

Raising awareness about the marine and mangrove ecosystems in Suriname during COVID: Update on “School-Based Training and Extracurricular Events for the Community Conservation of Mangroves”

While we had a lot of plans for the first six months of this project, a lot of the activities had to be postponed or adapted due to COVID-19. Initially, we had planned to hold school-based training events in April 2021 in various secondary (MULO) schools in both Nickerie and Coronie. However, due to the large backlog in the educational process caused by the pandemic and multiple lockdowns, these events were postponed until November 2021. In the meantime, we are working with Media Producer Legacy In Action to create animated short films about mangroves for use in education. If we can’t visit the schools in person, we will try to visit them virtually.

Another one of our engagement activities, the World Ocean Day 2021 virtual celebration, was organized in June. While it was unfortunate that this event had to be moved online due to the pandemic, it allowed us to collaborate with organizations in Guyana and make the celebration a binational event! The primary focus of the event was land-based sources of pollution and their adverse effects on ocean and human health and it featured live sessions with keynote speakers, such as Dr. Tiara Moore, and virtual information booths from Surinamese and Guyanese organizations. It was attended by 227 people from 14 countries! You can check out our YouTube page to see the World Ocean Day 2021 playlist if you missed it.

Flyer for the World Ocean Day Celebration of 2021
Flyer for the “World Ocean Day Celebration 2021”

To shine a light on one of the biggest land-based sources of pollution, plastics, we also held a televised online debate on plastic pollution. The debate was broadcasted on three television stations and live-streamed on YouTube. During the debate representatives from different organizations discussed the impacts of plastic pollution on the ocean and human health as well as alternatives to single-use plastics.

Flyer “Plastic Pollution Debat”

In August, we focused on planning summer vacation activities for September and started working on the activity boxes. One of the aims is to have the participants of the activity boxes present their boxes at the Mini Mangrove Fair that’s planned for 2022. Lastly, we also arranged for The Backlot to hold a workshop in April-May 2022, during which children will be trained in using social media to advocate for mangrove protection. 

In short, the COVID-19 pandemic presented significant challenges to GHFS’s efforts, including postponing school visits and difficulty engaging with stakeholders. However, just like many people and organizations were forced to do in this unprecedented time, we adapted our plans and activities by organizing smaller, socially-distanced extracurricular activities that required advanced registration and exploring virtual and smaller in-person meetings with stakeholders who do not have access to the internet.

Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out how we managed to organize the first summer vacation activities and stakeholder meetings during COVID-19! See you soon!

 

A Mother’s Day Miracle in French Guiana

A beautiful Mother’s day story to show how important the bond is between a mother sloth and her baby.

When Laure from French Guiana reached out to us about an abandoned baby sloth in a forest near her home, we knew we needed to spring into action. Read how we helped Laure reunite a scared, baby sloth with his mother in the forest of Javouhey. 

Laure walked outside just a few meters before she noticed a small baby sloth

After living on the outskirts of a forest in Javouhey, French Guiana for six months, Laure has grown accustomed to hearing the chirps and howls and all of the other sounds that come from the wilderness. But when she heard the small cries of a baby creature from inside of her home, Laure knew something wasn’t quite right—and decided to take a look. 

Laure walked outside just a few meters before she noticed a small baby sloth sitting on the ground, screaming out sad, scared cries. She looked up into the canopy and noticed a large, female sloth—the baby’s mother—but the mother wasn’t alone. She was fighting with another sloth high in the tree-tops while her baby cried out for her on the ground. With predators lurking everywhere in the forest, Laure was too scared to leave the little baby behind. 

“I stayed for one or two hours because I was so afraid that an animal would come and eat the baby. I left the forest briefly, but after a while I returned, hopeful that the mother had taken her baby with her. When I returned, the little baby was still crying on the ground while the mom had climbed even higher than before—and a tayra had even arrived on the scene! I think it must have heard the baby sloth crying. I couldn’t stand to watch the baby cry for his mother, so I decided to take him in for the night.” 

Laure put the baby sloth to sleep in a box with a teddy bear inside of her home, where he slept comfortably throughout the night. But she knew that the baby’s best chance for a long, happy life was a reunion with his mother—so she decided to reach out to us. 

“I have heard that some babies are reunited with their mothers thanks to the baby’s cries, and I hope to try tomorrow in the early morning,” she wrote. “He is so small, tinier than a human hand, and he really needs his mother—how can I interest her in taking her baby back?”

As our team knows all too well, sometimes mothers are forced to abandon their babies due to a lack of good leaf quality due to drought. Our director, Monique, wrote back and warned Laure of this possibility while sharing advice for the best chance of a successful reunion:
“Dear Laure, 
Please try to reunite the baby with the mother. Maybe you can record the baby’s cry and play it over a loudspeaker to the mother until she comes down to get her baby. Please keep the baby warm at night, around a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius. Please be careful that you do not make the temperature too high, because the baby cannot regulate its own temperature. If you have goat’s milk, you can give the baby some drops of goat’s milk with a pipette.” 

The baby sees the mother high up in the tree.

After reading Monique’s advice carefully, Laure put the baby sloth to sleep with warm milk. Determined to give the baby his best chance of survival, she rose well before sunset the next morning and made her way to the forest. Around seven o’clock in the morning, she began playing the baby’s recorded cries from her computer, hopeful that it would attract the mother’s attention and draw her back to the place she last saw her baby. At 5 pm, Laure gave up and decided to return home.  As she walked back through the forest, bringing the baby with her, Laure noticed that it was hard for him to listen to the sound of his own, pained cries. As the evening sun began to set, Laure’s hope in a happy reunion began to dwindle. Almost home, she was stopped in her tracks when something magical happened. 

“As I was walking, I noticed two sloths sitting across a small river near my house, and I decided to give it one more shot. I placed the baby on the ground and hid behind a bush. The baby began to cry out, and the female sloth began to move, slowly but with determination, across the river over the canopy. She climbed down the trunk of the tree, and I moved as quietly as I could—just a few meters further away—to witness one of the most beautiful moments of my life. The baby saw his mother and began to cry out. I swear, his cries changed, and it sounded like he was saying “ma-ma.” When she put her feet on the ground, his mother began to blow or growl … so loud that I wondered if there was a jaguar nearby! Thankfully, I never found out why the mother was growling. I watched as she put her feet on a small tree and stretched out in a horizontal position. She smelt the baby and took him up with her arm. Then she turned around, put her arm with the baby on her tummy, and curled up. She smelt him again and wrapped him up in a big hug. She looked around one last time while her baby wrapped his arms around her neck, and then she crossed the canopy to the other side of the river with her baby holding on tight. I have no videos and no photos of this moment because my battery had died, but it is no matter—today was perfect. I remember it so vividly, it’s as if I had a camera in my head. It was a perfect ending!” 

A perfect ending, indeed—what a beautiful way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Thanks to Laure for sharing her beautiful story and for her hard work in reuniting this baby with his mother.

With thanks to Laure for sharing her story, Presley West for editing and Jacquelyn Briggs for her beautiful illustrations

These drawings are a mother’s day present from Laure.

A Weekend in Galibi

By Ted van Hooff

When you think of Green Heritage Fund Suriname, you think of sloths. Yet the foundation does more than rehabilitate this species. With educational trips, the GHFS team aims to show a new generation of Surinamese people that humans and nature need each other. I joined Geneviève, Cheyenne, Jonathan and Desiré for a weekend to see how this is done. Destination: Galibi.

Galibi is located in the northeast of Suriname. From Paramaribo the bus takes us to Albina where we transfer to a wooden boat. The boatman covers our luggage with a plastic sheet. It can’t be that bad? Guess again. For an hour, the brackish water slaps us in the face. When the palms and fishing boats of Galibi appear in sight, we are soaked. We go ashore.

The coastal community consists of two converging villages: Christiaankondre and Langamankondre. There is a long stretch of sand between them. Palm trees, fishing boats and wooden buildings make up the landscape. It is quiet. Most residents live off fishing. Another source of income are tourists that come to Galibi to watch sea turtles. This weekend our focus is on Galibi’s youngest inhabitants. The thirty-four children that we will be working with are between six and eight years old.

Galibi has a picturesque coastline

After showing our face to the captain, we walk through the sand strip to a covered outdoor room. A group of eager children is waiting for us. That evening we play the animation film Finding Nemo. They impatiently slide in their seats as we set up the projector. The children double over with laughter when the seagulls throw themselves at Nemo and Dory.

The next morning we return. The group of children has doubled. After a funny introduction game we get to the point: this weekend we hope to teach them how important it is to keep the ocean and the waters of Suriname plastic-free. On the floor, a life-size river that blends into the ocean has been drawn with chalk. At the mouth of each branch, children are waiting with a piece of plastic for the weather forecast that Jonathan is holding up. The sun shines? Then nothing happens. A heavy rain shower? Plastic waste washes into the ocean with high tide. So run!

Other games follow. Among other things, the children learn that you cannot blindly trust your senses if, for example, you want to find out the temperature of water. We end the day with a drawing competition and a plate of bami.

Cheyenne listens as a girl introduces herself
Children pass on pieces of plastic
Jonathan shows how a thermometer is used

That evening, we find two green turtle hatchlings just outside our rooms. Just out of the egg, they have mistaken the porch light for the moon that leads them to the ocean. Their flippers are helplessly slapping against the concrete wall. We take them to the beach, where they bravely storm the high waves.

In each phase of their lives, sea turtles are confronted with challenges. Their nest are an easy target for raccoons, ghost crabs and dogs. For poachers, selling turtle eggs is an illegal but lucrative way of earning money. Once out of the egg, young turtles await high waves. Land and sea animals see them as an easy snack. Only a small minority of turtle eggs results in a mature turtle.

In the last decades, a new issue has arisen: plastic pollution of the environment. Animals consume plastic (parts) or become entangled in plastic waste, sometimes with fatal consequences. The small plastic bags that many stores give away for free, look like tasty jellyfish to a sea turtle. Plastic pollution is a global issue that poses a great threat to biodiversity, quality of life, and food safety worldwide. It also affects small communities like Galibi, which are directly dependent on the ocean for fishing and tourism. 

On Sunday morning, it is pouring and so we relocate to a classroom in the elementary school. The children form a circle. Each child has a string around their neck with a card that depicts a species: orca, turtle, whale shark, dog, etcetera. We connect each animal in the circle with a string of wool; together they form an ecosystem. What happens when the orca lets go of the string? The beautifully formed web slowly collapses – just like the ecosystem when a species disappears. When one species is struggling, the entire system suffers.

A girl stands in the middle of the ecosystem web
Hatchlings await their turn to make a run for it

When the rain has gone, we go outside. The children can release all of their energy during the final game. Five paper hatchlings are attached to each child in one half of the group, while the other half takes on the role of predator. 

Each group stands at the far end of the track that we have drawn in the sand. A few boys are practicing their shark moves. The hatchlings need to make it to the other side unharmed. The predators also need to make it to their opposite side, while making as many victims as possible by collecting the paper hatchlings.

When the whistle goes off, the track turns into a spartan battle scene. Paper hatchlings fly through the air, while others barely make it to the safe zone on the other side. After ten minutes, most of the hatchlings have perished. What have we learned from this? Hatchlings are very vulnerable to predators. Pollution by humans will only further complicate their struggle to survive.

This war of attrition marks the end of this weekend. Tired but satisfied, the hatchlings and predators spread to different parts of the town. They are going home. But first, they have an important question for us: When are you coming back?

They won’t have to wait long. Our next visit is scheduled for August. By returning regularly, we hope to raise awareness about the importance of a clean ocean. When we take the boat back, the sun is shining.

An interview with Tomas Willems about Marine Spatial Planning

By Ted van Hooff

The sea and coastal area of the Guianas is home to many extraordinary animal species, among which are the Guiana dolphin, the leatherback sea turtle and the scarlet ibis. Compared to other parts of South-America, there is little information on local wildlife and the use of this area by its inhabitants. WWW Guianas, the Guianas’ Protected Areas Commission, Natuurbeheer and Green Heritage Fund Suriname have been working together since 2017 on Marine Spatial Planning an EU funded project to change this.

One of Marine Spatial Planning’s outputs is the creation of a participatory 3D model of the Surinamese sea and coastal area. The members of the consultancy team that is developing this model visit coastal villages and ask locals to share their experiences. The data the team collects is used for a three dimensional map that spans several meters and covers the coastal area between Nieuw-Nickerie and Galibi. To the north, the map extends 150 kilometers into the sea, to a water depth of 200 meters.

On a Thursday afternoon Monique and I visit the team. In a large room on Melaphier Street, Debora Linga, Sara Ramírez-Gómez and Tomas Willems are speaking with the captain of a local fishing boat. From an early age the man has been fishing in the entire area that is recreated on the map. Standing around the large, colorful landscape they listen to his story. He tells them where mud banks, whales and turtle nests are found. At the same time, the last pieces of the map are being colored with a paint brush.

I sit down with Tomas Willems. Tomas is from Belgium and has been working as a marine biologist in Suriname since 2012. “In 2017 we started with a base map. Blank, with only the coordinates, depth and height. First we visited the locals to ask what information they would like to see on the map. It is important to us that the information on the map is useful to them.”

And so it happened. A single look on the map says a lot about the daily lives of these people. Thumb tacks and strings indicate sailing routes and bird watching locations. A red pin means severe pollution and a yellow one signals the location of a shipwreck. The use of trawls for catching fish and shrimp is marked by white thumb tacks. When you study the landscape closely, you keep discovering new things.

The map is built on multiple oblong tables that are pushed together into a large rectangle. The table legs are foldable, which is necessary, because the colossus travels to the coastal villages with Tomas, Sara and Debora by truck. “Initially, we wanted to make the map even bigger, but transport would then become impossible.”

The knowledge that locals pass on from generation to generation is a valuable addition to existing scientific information. Unlike scientists, the inhabitants of this coastal area have been living on this land and in these waters for decades. Before anyone else, they recognize patterns and changes in the landscape. Their stories therefore contain valuable clues for research.

“By now, we have talked to around sixty people of all ages,” Tomas says. “There appear to be more conflicts with regard to zoning than we expected. The boundaries of legal fishing areas, among other things, are often crossed.”

The captain confirms that not everyone abides by the rules. Regularly he comes across cages that are placed on the seabed for catching red snapper. Because such cages are often lost and then continue to trap fish, it is a prohibited fishing technique in Suriname. Nevertheless, the technique is frequently applied, resulting in damage to the fish stock. The area also has to contend with poaching. Turtle eggs turn out to be lucrative merchandise and many nests are raided within 24 hours. If nothing changes, the future of sea turtles in Suriname is uncertain.

The map is digitized at the end of May and sent to all interviewees for a final check. The end result will be presented to a large audience in June. The collaborating parties of the Marine Spatial Planning process funded by the EU hope the map will lead to new insights for policy makers. They can create policy that ensures that the coastal area will continue to be liveable for humans and animals in the future.

Celebrating the life of Jinkoe

The first day Jinkoe was weighed.

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.

Jinkoe in her new sloth wellness center home.

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.

Jinkoe enjoying the leaves around the center.

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 spending a night at home.

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.

Jinkoe lounging at home not long before her fall.

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.

A Special Guest

By Ted van Hooff

‘There’s a sloth in a car tire above the water behind my house.’ We find sloths in the strangest places. When Eric calls us about the guest that has been staying in his backyard for the last couple of days, we know we’ve got a special case at our hands.

When we arrive at Eric’s home near the Suriname River, we are greeted by five large but friendly dogs. That explains a lot.

Our mission is clear: getting the animal out of the tire without Monique, Eric or the sloth taking to the seas. The dogs are sent inside and the catch pole, net and crate are laid out. Eric’s wife, son and employee assist us. Optimistically, the six of us set to work.

The sloth is less optimistic. He disentangles himself from the noose – a unique achievement – and returns the net. After a brief wrestling match he grants us the victory and reluctantly lets himself be lowered into the crate. The job is done.

Eric treats us to homemade lime juice and as we sit at the garden table he proudly tells us about the nature that surrounds his home. The sloth is christened Henderic.

Meanwhile, Henderic has been doing a lot better. He recovered from his adventure at the sloth wellness center and was released near Bloemendaal the next day, where he is happily hanging from a branch, unhindered by dogs and catch poles.

Thank you Sigfried

By Ted van Hooff

When Sigfried, a cock who is always alert, starts to crow at a tree in a backyard in South Paramaribo, his owners suspect something is wrong. Sigfried has spotted an intruder: a three-fingered sloth is hanging lonely on a branch.

 

 

The Green Heritage Fund is called in. While Sigfried is kept at a distance with a broom – no intruder is safe in his yard – Monique climbs into the tree to catch the sloth. It is an emaciated male with nails that are too short. Most likely someone kept him as a pet. Long nails are considered a danger when keeping an animal like this at home and for that reason they are often cut off.

 

 

The sloth will gain his strengths in the sloth shelter of Green Heritage Fund Suriname in Groningen and ultimately be released into the forest where he belongs. But before that happens, his nails have to be long enough. He needs them to groom his fur and to be able to climb. As a result of his slow metabolism, the nails of sloths grow very slowly. It may take up to two years before this animal can climb around in the forest again with proper nails.

Thanks to Sigfried’s alertness that day will for sure come.

 

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