A Mother’s Day Miracle in French Guiana

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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.

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