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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever wondered how a baby sloth is born? Although I know that baby sloths are born in trees. I just realized on the 27th of September that it is a risky business! On the 27th of September, we received a call that a baby sloth had been found on the ground in someone’s backyard. So we drove over, equipped with our Bluetooth speaker. We thought the mother could not be far and wanted to amplify the baby’s cries to lure the mother to her baby.
However, when we arrived, we learned the baby had fallen off its mother the day before. Crying for its mother. And discovered by the man because of that. He did not dare leave it because he had cats. But by now, almost 24 hours later, the poor little two-fingered baby sloth had weakened so severely it could not call anymore. We realized this was an accident that happened during or shortly after the birth. The membranes were not completely removed, so the baby may have fallen while the mother had been licking it to remove the membrane. We looked and looked, but no adult sloth was near. We left with the baby because we could not reunite it with its mother. The man who had called us told us he regularly saw these two-fingered sloths and estimated there were five in the trees in his backyard.
We were on our way back for almost 10 minutes when he called us again. He had found the mother in the tree. We turned around, and yes, indeed. There was an adult two-fingered sloth in the tree near where he had found the baby. We tried to get its attention, but no response. Two-fingered sloths sleep during the day. After trying to get it to move for 15 minutes, we gave up. Maybe it was an aunt or the father. It was, in any case, not interested in us humans.
We asked the man before we left if he wanted to give the baby a name. He told us that his son had given it the name: Sheep. He called all animals sheep, because his father kept sheep in the backyard. Interestingly, two-fingered sloths are called in our local language skapuloiri, which means “sheep sloth.” Sheep is now almost two months old; after the first week of intensive care, we felt Sheep’s condition stabilizing. Now, Sheep is already starting to eat leaves and has become more aware of his surroundings.
Not long after we received Sheep, two more baby sloths were reported to us. In this case, two baby three-fingered sloths. As our animal caretaker has been on a long holiday since the end of September, the care for the babies fell on me. And although tiring, it reminded me why I am doing what we do. To give these baby animals a second chance to live a whole life.
Thanks to your support, we can give Sheep, Mailo, and Cleo a chance to have their own babies in the future.
We had a wonderful year! Slowly things started falling into place after a bit of a chaotic ending of 2017. But, things started lining up. Animals and humans started getting used to our their new home. We had to say farewell to our most precious friend Isa in February, a bright star now in the Constellation of Sloth we can see from the sundeck. 19November had a baby, Beertje enjoys both the trees and the good food we give him. Jinkoe and Ostrich sleep sometimes at home, and most of the time spent looking for a breeze and fresh leaves in the forest. Angel and Rory were well trained by their foster mothers Ostrich and Jinkoe and decided they prefer the trees over the center.
Many animals passed through the center this year. We released some on the day of our opening on the 2nd of November by Roline Samsoedien, Minister of Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management with assistance by District Commissioner of Saramacca, Laksmienarain Doebay, and the Permanent Secretary of her Ministry, Ms. Leandra Woei.
Our bus was knocked over at the end of November by an irresponsible driver. But we are not stopped in our tracks by this, we are continuing our work thanks to the wonderful cooperation among the volunteers and collaborators of Green Heritage Fund Suriname. And we are ending 2018 with even today (30th of Dec) two releases and will start the new year on a very positive note with a Medicine of Sloth Workshop for Veterinarians and a Wildlife Welfare Workshop for everyone who is interested. And many other activities moving the well-being and health of the animals and humans forward. Moving our bond with nature better into focus for us all to understand.
Thank you for your continued support and thoughts and activities to support us. We and the animals greatly appreciate your support. We particularly thank our partner Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V in supporting our work with the sloths, anteaters and armadillos.
We are wishing you a Green, Clean and Healthy 2019!
We have now moved a little over a year ago to the Sloth Wellness Center, where the long-term residents Lucas, 19November and Ann (5 years in our care), as well as Anna (1 year in our care) and Beertje have found a new home in the forest surrounding our facilities. We regularly see 19November, Anna and Beertje who come to show themselves to let us know they are doing well. And maybe because they miss us a little bit (who knows?).
Last Friday, 19November was seen by a visitor who noticed that she was not alone. YES! She has a baby… The baby was named after the visitor, Madeleine Lamb, and we now see 19November and Maddy (short for Madeleine as we do not know if it is a boy or a girl) regularly around (it’s been a week). And we already love Maddy. She is curious like her mom, and we have seen her suckling also several times. So this is a first time that we are sharing the pictures with all of you, which were taken by the Lamb family and our returning intern Gabriella Abbott-Gribben.
The Lamb family also made a really amazing video of Maddy.
Baby sloths starts eating leaves already with the mother as of the third day, while it continues to suckle from her mother’s breast. In sloths the mammary gland is located in the armpit. The baby also licks regurgitated leaves from the mother’s mouth, that way she learns what leaves to eat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to important donations from Kosmos Energy and the continuation of our partnership with Welttierschutzgesellschaft and of course our loyal donors through Global Giving we are now finishing the Intensive Care unit, the access to the IC unit, the animal treatment room, and the animal kitchen. We also worked on upgrading the human kitchen, so that the people taking care of the animals also have better facilities. So we are almost ready to officially open our doors, even though since we moved here, animals have passed through our facility as if everything is already in place.
Since we think we cannot make a picture report without at least one sloth in it, we have posted a picture of Beertje at the very end, who is regularly returning to his own house and food tray.
At the end of March the Surinamese and German NGO partners signed a new partnership agreement to continue the rescue and rehabilitation work of sloths, anteaters and armadillos in Suriname. The new agreement is partially a continuation of the previous agreement with Welttierschutzgesellschaft. The goals are to rescue, shelter and rehabilitate these typical South American mammals, and the new surroundings in a professional rescue center now pave the way for more emphasis on other elements of the partnership that include education and information, training and habitat protection. The rehabilitation centre will improve rehabilitation options of wildlife in Suriname. The soon to be officially opened rescue center, also referred to as the sloth wellness center, is to guarantee professional care in natural surroundings with quarantine and treatment rooms to minimize trauma caused by contact with humans, reducing rehabilitation time and thus improving survival chances for the sloths, anteaters and armadillos.
Professionalization of Care
The center will be staffed by a full-time manager, one full-time animal caretaker and a part-time educator, assisted by always numerous GHFS volunteers. The professional staff will beresponsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the rescue center, ensuring that the animals receive proper care – for which the center is outfitted with an intensive care unit, an emergency care room and a special animal kitchen – maintaining facilities and equipment, and interacting with the public. In particular, the rescue center staff will foster good community relations. As the rescue center is first and foremost focused on the animals, the educator will work on a part-time basis as visitors will only be allowed to visit according to a restricted and limited visiting schedule.
Information and Awareness-raising
The professional rescue center will also serve as an educational center to teach visitors about consequences of habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict. By teaching about the animals and their life history, more awareness will be created about their habitat’s complexity and its benefits to humans. People will also be informed about the impacts of pollution and destruction of the coastal swamp and mangrove forests for animal and human population. Saving patches of forest in the sprawling urban area to create a green corridor along the coast is a solution GHFS advocates for. The educational centre will also serve as training location for youth groups and school classes. Special emphasis will be put on the harmful effects of sloth and wildlife selfie tourism.In the long term the educational center will help establish a conservation and wildlife welfare ethic in Surinamese of all ages.
Training course in the Medicine of Sloths
Welttierschutzgesellschaft is supporting a course in the medicine of sloths for the professionals assisting GHFS with their treatment to provide optimal care to each animal. The metabolism of sloths and anteaters is so different from other mammals that providing medical care requires specialized training. For this purpose, Dra. Claudia Brieva, a lecturer at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia on wildlife medicine – with a specialization in sloths – will provide this training. The course theory will focus on the medical treatment of sloths, their welfare, medical parameters, and case studies will be discussed. The practical part would involve actual treatment of an animal. Vets targeted for this training are the vets already working with the GHFS and several that are new to the care of these animals and do not have any previous experience working with these animals. Vets practicing at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries will also be invited.
Sloth Action Plan
Within the agreement period a sloth action plan for Suriname will be initiated. Sloths, two species in Suriname – Bradypus tridactylus andCholoepus didactylus– are according to IUCN of least concern. However, these species are in the coastal zone of Suriname threatened, particularly by habitat loss, poaching, pet and bushmeat trade, and selfie tourism. Despite the fact that killing or capturing sloths for any purpose is against national laws. Unfortunately, institutional, social and economic decline, is causing wildlife to be under increasing pressure as urban and rural human populations engage in the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. The result of these activities is the elimination of wildlife, including sloths, from the rainforest and the reduction of suitable habitat. Seriously compromising the welfare of sloths and other animals sharing their habitat. To help to address these issues, the sloth action plan for Suriname aims to analyse the impediments to effective conservation of sloths, assess the status of the sloth populations, assess wild sloth welfare, look at strategic actions for sloth conservation through a threat analysis and threat ranking, make a conceptual model and develop intervention strategies, as well as a monitoring plan. This sloth action plan would then guide the work of GHFS in conjunction with the Nature Conservation Division and other partners and could serve as a model for other species action plans, such as anteaters.
Wildlife Welfare Workshop
Together with Welttierschutzgesellschaft a wildlife welfare workshop will be organized for and with a broader audience, including the Nature Conservation Division, other government agencies, other animal welfare groups, the private sector, and other interested stakeholders. The goal of this workshop is to raise awareness about wildlife welfare, in particular with regard to the species GHFS works with, as well as in a more general sense relating to all wildlife. Human activities or changes to the environment leading to welfare issues affecting wildlife and how this relates to issues of conservation, management and research will be highlighted. A roundtable on practical approaches for the alleviation and prevention of some of these welfare problems will be part of this workshop. The output of this workshop in the form of a document could provide a basis for wildlife welfare considerations to be integrated in rules/regulations on specific human activities, such as deforestation.
Measures of Success
The short-term goal is to give increasingly better care to ill and wounded sloths, anteaters and armadillos. As human actions cause animals to become orphaned or get in trouble, at first the rehab center will be outfitted so that it can handle on average 100 animals per year to be rescued, cared for, rehabilitated and prepared for life in the wild again. The long-term goal of the rehabilitation center is to make itself superfluous. This means that the average citizen is aware that “wild animals belong in the wild”, meaning that the center should not receive more than 50 animals per year (reduction of 50%) and that the focus of the center will be increasingly on education, research and awareness. Such a success would include a green corridor in the city for in-situ conservation.
When we heard on the 4th of January that we really had to move, we were shocked because we had a deadline, but also grateful that our landlord gave us the opportunity to set our own deadline. He even allowed us when the time neared to extend it by a month. So we moved, we had some troubles along the way, but we overcame all of them. We are now almost ready to officially open the center, even though we have been running rescues and releases all through the year.
All this, we could not have done without the support of our Volunteers, our donors and all the people that were involved in constructing the center. Therefor we want to thank you all and on the eve of a new year wish you all the best for 2018. We hope to see you again online or in person.
AnteaterTailThis picture report highlights the adventures of Igor, the giant anteater, a short-stay resident at the Sloth Wellness Center in October. This animal was wounded and we cared for him until his wounds had completely healed. He was then released. Please see below for more details about his adventures.
If you ever wondered what the bushy tail is for, please click on the link below, to see how the Giant anteater uses his tail as a blanket. And you will also find out how a Giant anteater goes to sleep!