Thankful at the End of 2022

Yvonne releasing an animal back into the forest

We have a lot to be thankful for at the end of this year. We had many interns and volunteers turn up to help with our work. Frances entered data for all our Paramaribo rescues of the past five years while immediately mapping them. Wianda entered data from many, many years of feeding our temporary stay animals. Loren worked hard to keep a starving giant anteater pup alive and put her vet skills to work for us. Roberto provided expert advice from a distance with many of our critical rescues. Sean and Gini and a crew of Indigenous assistants helped maintain the educational trail and other parts of our rehabilitation center.

Karen and her volunteers helping to keep our driveway passable

Karen and her team of volunteers came more than once to help us maintain the driveway to the center. Shovel sand into the enclosures to compensate for the heavy rainfall that caused more water to stand longer in new places. Ingrid came with her Batik group and her teacher Sri to finish our educational mural. Irenka and Mailo helped save an animal from the illegal wildlife trade. Dominiek came with his students to inventory the trees in our sacred little forest to improve the educational story. Volunteers came to help finish the enclosures for the animals to start getting used to the forest.

Visitors witness a release and are educated on the biology of sloths

Our Rehabilitation Center Team, in the meantime, ensured the continuous care of all our animals – permanently living in the trees, semi-permanently on their way to freedom, and those just passing through.

Yvonne taking care of one of the baby sloths

Our city team worked tirelessly to rescue animals in the city from uncomfortable situations in houses, under roofs, tied by malicious people to a fence, and shot by hunters or gunmen without a conscience.

The vets we work with, either online or locally, gave it their best to try to save animals in critical condition, burned, shot, or otherwise debilitated due to the situation they came from.

Vet volunteer Loren with our vet Astrid tending to a patient

We gave interviews and presentations and produced educational materials to help raise awareness of how humans are the greatest threat to wildlife, whether directly through hunting, trafficking, other human-wildlife encounters or indirectly due to climate change.

Start screen of our educational series

We celebrated our volunteers during our volunteer event at which two sloth awards were handed out to Natascha Wong A Ton, for having provided more than a decade long financial advise. And to Sharen-Vess Schaap, the once youngest volunteer, and now the volunteer that has supported us for almost 14 years.

Volunteers at the event to celebrate the sloth awardees

Thanks to the financial support of many donors, visitors, and our partner Welttierschutzgesellschaft, all this was made possible for us in 2022. The almost 130 rescues, the rehabilitation of the animals that needed it, the releases. Our educational tours, awareness, and advocacy.

Resting on her surrogate mother, Sheep is taking in the world

We are immensely grateful for the support of our volunteers, donors, visitors, by-standers and our partner. We wish you all a fantastic 2023! We hope to welcome you to our center one day.

Luiaards Één Jaar In Het Luiaard Wellness Centrum


Mock-feeding the one-year olds so that I can feed baby Angel

When I first arrived in Suriname, I had little knowledge about the small, slow, incredible creatures I would soon grow to love. In the United States, sloths are internet sensations. Due to their specialized lifestyle and fragile nature, sloths, particularly three-fingered species, are not common zoo animals. So, the only real exposure to these animals comes from internet videos, which typically only emphasize how cute sloths are and contain very little real information about them. These videos are everywhere, showing sloths being cleaned and hung to dry, the perpetual smiles of the brown and pale-throated sloths, and the big, round eyes of juveniles peering over the buckets they live in. Sloths are infrequently portrayed as the wild animals they are, perpetuating a false, romanticized, or incomplete image of them. As my two-month internship at the Sloth Wellness Center would teach me, sloths are fascinating wild animals that are much more complex than the slow and smiley depictions we see.

On my arrival in late May, the center’s long-term occupants were well on their way to approaching adulthood. Caring for these animals everyday helped me appreciate the individuality of each animal and the remarkable behavior and nature of sloths.


Sara heading out on another trip into the forest

Jinkoe celebrated the one-year anniversary of her stay at the center in the beginning of July. When I saw her for the first time, she was already on her way to the Cecropia tree next to the center. Jinkoe continued to flex her adventurous spirit for the next two months, spending several days in the forest at a time. Sometimes she’d end her trips early if the rain was particularly heavy and she’d crawl back to the center soaking wet. Her excursions would grow longer in duration each time she left, and I believe she’s warming herself up to spend the rest of her life in the forest. Sara, another young three-fingered sloth that recently was brought under our care, was even more bold than Jinkoe. She’d set off on week-long vacations away from the center, always stopping back to hang out for a day or two.

Ostrich also celebrated her one-year anniversary at the center in July and achieved another milestone during my time in Suriname— motherhood (well, almost). Due to her gentle nature, Ostrich was the perfect companion for one of the center’s newest, youngest residents, Angel. In his first few days at the center, Angel was restless and searching for his mother, trying to call to her with a high-pitched whistle. After a few days had passed, Angel would gently hold onto Ostrich while they were both eating. Soon, Angel was completely wrapped around Ostrich, seemingly glued to her with his tight grip. At first we weren’t certain if Ostrich was welcoming the change.


Angel and Ostrich in one of their typical lounging positions

However, a couple of weeks after the pair formed, I tried to pick up Angel to weigh him, which prompted a defensive response from Ostrich. To protect her adopted baby, she hissed and raised her claw up to swing at me. So, we figured she must like her hitchhiker at least a little bit. They both would exercise independence and had moments alone during the day, but always seemed to curl up next to each other each night.

Avi, the two-fingered sloth, has been at the center for just over half a year and has grown substantially since her arrival. As a nocturnal animal, Avi was asleep during most of the day, except for in the mornings when she would be put outside to relax in the sun. In those moments, she’d be stretching her neck up to get as much sunlight as possible. At night, she would actively crawl all over her jungle gym, stretching her muscles and exploring each corner.

I spent most of my time caring for the baby two-fingered sloth, Balletje (“Little ball”). She was the first sloth I ever saw in person, and she was incredibly small and fragile. Before she reached us, Balletje was inappropriately kept as someone’s pet. They fed her noodles instead of a proper diet, which made her malnourished and sick. When she began her stay at the center, she was always hungry but still appeared weak and limp, sitting wrapped up in a ball instead of using her arms or legs. She slowly began using her arms to hang on to her stuffed animal “mother,” but would hold her feet together instead of using them to support her weight. However, as she continued to eat a healthy diet, she began to grow stronger, support herself while hanging, and explore. It was really rewarding to be a part of that journey and to watch her demeanor change from sluggish to active and engaged in her surroundings.


Beertje “Little Bear” and Anna hanging out in the trees surrounding the center

 

The center and the surrounding forest provide a wonderful environment for wildlife. We release many of the adult sloths and anteaters that we rescue in this forest. The young animals that grow up in our care are also released into this forest and can still be seen in the area. Sloths Anna, 19November, Christine and Little Bear are often spotted lounging in the trees near the center.

 

 

 

 

Other than sloths, the forest is full of remarkable diversity. A troupe of twenty squirrel monkeys frequently move through the trees in the late morning. The low howl of the howler monkey can be heard deep in the forest. Agoutis rustle the piles of fallen leaves in the clearings behind trees and lizards, small and large, move through the low foliage. Bright blue morpho butterflies, hummingbirds, and dragonflies can be seen hovering between flowers and bushes. The silhouettes of toucans, macaws, parakeets and vultures can be seen flying over the canopy in the distance. What seems to be thousands of leaf cutter ants march great distances from their large nests in the forest to the center and back again. The forest is full with the never-ending hum of cicadas, crickets, and frogs. These animals are only a small fraction of the countless lives and rich diversity that populates the forest. This is why protecting the forests of Suriname is so important—so many remarkable lives depend on them.

Wildlife Welfare

Experiencing nature and wildlife in such an intimate way has given me a new appreciation for wildlife welfare, which I also spent a lot of my time researching for GHFS. Wild animals are often reduced to numbers, with a focus on population size and diversity, considering them as componentsof their ecosystems instead of individual animals. The sloths I spent time with proved to me that individual wild animals have unique experiences and react to their surroundings differently. They experience emotional states like fear, satisfaction, and stress, have food preferences, and pursue different activities for enjoyment. I could see this daily—in the interactions between Angel and Ostrich, in Jinkoe’s short temper, in Balletje’s weariness of eating apple and unyielding love for egg whites, in Sara’s unexpected visits back to the center. Each sloth taught me about the value of individual wild animals. When considering wildlife and forest protection, it’s important to keep this in mind, since human activities can have a large impact on not just population size, but also individual animal wellbeing.

This knowledge is only some of the countless bits of information my two months in Suriname taught me. To briefly name a few, I also learned how much I want to pursue wildlife conservation and protection, how sloths might be the best animal evolution ever created, and how only two months is enough time for a place to really feel like home. Although my stay ended much too quickly, the center welcomed another guest in my place— a baby three-fingered sloth. Her name is Rory too, and I’m certain she is growing up in the best home possible.

Vrijwilligersblog – Greta Wong

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Hallo! Mijn naam is Greta Wong en ik ben een Amerikaanse universiteitsstudent. Ik studeer Evolutiebiologie met een interesse in natuurbehoud. Als zodanig is GHFS een perfect leerplatform geweest. Met zo veel projecten gaande, was het gemakkelijk om daarover te leren gewoon door te praten met de andere vrijwilligers over hun projecten. Hoewel ik hier slechts een maand ben geweest, heb ik geholpen met luiaard- en miereneter-rehabilitatie, dolfijnenonderzoek, het in kaart brengen van kankantries en het verhogen van het bewustzijn over natuurbehoud.

Een van mijn belangrijkste projecten is het overbrengen van de data over al onze luiaardreddingsacties naar een online database. Hoewel data entry misschien niet de meest spannende taak lijkt, is het eigenlijk heel verhelderend geweest. Elke luiaard heeft zijn eigen verhaal waarom die bij ons is terechtgekomen. De meesten zijn gevonden in de stad, en hebben hun huis permanent verloren als gevolg van de ontbossing hier. Anderen zijn gevonden vastgebonden, te koop aangeboden als huisdier. Vaak wanneer een luiaard aankomt bij GHFS, zijn ze timide en opgerold in een bal. Maar zodra we ze wat busipapaya-bladeren (hun favoriete bladeren) geven, beginnen ze een beetje te relaxen, eten en wachten op hun spoedige vrijlating in het wild.

Ik vond het interessant om te leren over de omstandigheden van hun redding, vooral wanneer ik een van de langdurige gasten tegenkwam. Het is prachtig om te zien hoe onze zorg hen echt heeft geholpen en hoe ze zijn gegroeid sinds ze bij ons kwamen.

Op plaatsen waar natuurbehoud niet op de voorgrond staat, kan het moeilijk zijn om te weten hoe verandering kan worden gebracht daarin. Gelukkig heeft GHFS toegewijde vrijwilligers en een sterke leider, die allen met volle inzet bezig zijn om het speciale ecosysteem dat Suriname vormt te beschermen.

De ervaring die ik heb opgedaan hier is van onschatbare waarde en ik ben geïnteresseerd om te zien waar deze organisatie zal gaan!

GretaWong2

 

Vrijwilligers Blog - Kasie Wade

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Kasie geniet van een zonsondergang met een nieuw gevonden vriend.

Mijn studie Visserij en Wilde dieren heeft mijn passie voor natuurbehoud en dieren in het wild tot leven gebracht. Ik ben vanuit de Verenigde Staten naar Suriname gereisd, met name vanuit de staat Florida. Ik ben in de vijfde week van mijn stage bij het Greem Heritage Fund van Suriname. Ik werk nauw samen met Monique Pool, de oprichter van GHFS. Ze werd in 2015 genomineerd als CNN Hero voor haar grote bijdragen aan de redding en rehabilitatie van luiaards tijdens de ontbossing en de handel in huisdieren, en voor haar andere milieuprestaties. Het Green Heritage Fund van Suriname heeft veel mogelijkheden om deel te nemen. Ik begon mijn eerste dag zelfs met het geven van voedsel aan de weeskindluiaard Glen.

Mijn tijd hier heeft me al de kans gegeven om te werken met; drievingerige luiaards, tweevingerige luiaards, een gigantische miereneter, en twee mindere miereneters. Ik heb het harde werk ervaren dat het kost om voor deze exotische dieren te zorgen. Ik heb deelgenomen aan vier luiaardreddingen en ik heb twee drievingerige luiaards en één tweevingerige luiaard in gezonde staat in het Amazone regenwoud gezien.

Al deze dieren moeten de klok rond gevoederd, schoongemaakt en gecontroleerd worden. Het werk is inspannend, maar vooral positief en leuk. We moeten echter voortdurend de bladeren plukken voor het voeden van onze drievingerige luiaards. Dit deel van het avontuur kan vies, modderig en het ergste van allemaal vol met aanvallende mieren zijn. Het plukken van bladeren in veel verschillende regio's kan een uitdaging zijn om de perfecte boom te vinden die geschikt is voor de dieren. De voorbereiding op het voederen van de dieren is vrij duur en tijdrovend, dus hoe meer hulp, hoe beter.

A car full of leaves! Enough though for only 2 days...
Een auto vol bladeren! Genoeg voor slechts 2 dagen.

Ik heb me aangesloten bij twee dolfijnbewakingsreizen op mooie zondagen. Deze dagen bleken telkens weer lonende ervaringen te zijn. Elke keer als we op de boot waren, zagen we veel estuariene dolfijnen actief pronken voor de boot. Op mijn laatste reis stopte de boot bij Braamspunt, een zandspuwer in de Surinamerivier (braamspunt.org), om de lokale vissers te bezoeken en te zien wat voor soort garnalen en vis ze dagelijks vangen. Ik ben blij om hier te zijn en deze geweldige leerervaring voort te zetten.

I am happy to be here and continue this great learning experience.

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