Giving Tuesday is finally here and the festive season is just around the corner (doesn’t it feel like 2020 has somehow been both the fastest and the slowest year ever?). We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting us throughout this difficult time.
Despite the challenges faced in 2020, we have managed to continue running, growing and expanding all of our sloth conservation programs – and also supporting the local community here in Costa Rica!
A year to give back
Earlier this year we celebrated #GivingTuesdayNow – a global day of giving as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. We took this opportunity to provide emergency assistance to local families in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica to ensure they have access to essential resources.
By helping local communities and prioritizing their needs during difficult times, we are able to build trust and utilize indigenous knowledge, which in turn has a positive influence on our conservation outcomes. Protecting sloths means protecting people!
This year we want to highlight the people who have helped us to create a better world for sloths!
Doing science with the community
We believe that engaging local communities in wildlife conservation efforts is critical for the success of projects. Not only are these people the ones that depend on the local environment, but due to their proximity and unrivalled knowledge of wildlife, they are also well placed to participate in conservation efforts.
Earlier this year we began a long-term post-release monitoring project for 6 sloths that arrived as orphaned babies to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Some of these sloths were reintroduced into the Cahuita National Park, and this gave us a wonderful opportunity to include the local community of Cahuita in our sloth tracking work.
The property of the Siegrit family borders the national park where the sloths were released and we would regularly find our sloths snoozing in their trees!
This is Adolfo Gimenez, a.k.a. “Gallo”, our tree climber and Sloth Crossing installer! Gallo used to work as a tree surgeon – trimming and cutting down trees, but now he spends his days working with Team Sloth to reconnect the rainforest with artificial wildlife bridges!
Although protecting sloths may seem like a narrow focus, conservation involves the whole community, often in unexpected ways. In the video below, Diego, our forest nursery manager, tells us his story during this complicated year.
Together we have managed to achieve remarkable things for sloths in 2020!
While this year continues to present us with unforeseen challenges, here in Costa Rica we are more focused than ever on our mission to safeguard a future for sloths. Our shared compassion and determination are giving us the strength and motivation to battle on through these difficult times.
This is an important day for non-profit organizations everywhere, and we wanted to personally take this opportunity to let you know how much your support means to us.
We couldn’t do any of this without your kindness and generosity, so thank you for helping us to make 2020 a truly wonderful year for sloth conservation! Join us on Team Sloth and we will double these achievements (and more!) in 2021!
Looking for the perfect gift for the sloth lover in your life?
Look no further for sloth gift ideas – we have you covered! Our selection of sloth-themed Gifts that Give Back are available for international delivery and with proceeds going to support our sloth conservation efforts – it’s a double win.
1. Adopt-A-Sloth (from $25 / £20)
We are offering ‘VIRTUAL‘ and ‘PHYSICAL‘ sloth adoption packages – perfect as a gift!
In exchange for a donation, we will send you a full personalised adoption goodie-bag either via email (virtual) or in the mail (physical)! Choose to adopt one of our 7 available sloths today and you will receive:
A personalised adoption certificate
Full biography / history profile for your chosen sloth
A photo print of your adopted sloth
A copy of our best-selling photography book: Sloths, Life in the Slow Lane (physical adoption packages only)
“The adoption package arrived today. Thank you SO much, my daughter is going to love it! The quality far exceeds my expectations and the book is just beautiful. Perfect for bedtime reading!” -Claire Johnson. UK
“My wife absolutely loved her sloth adoption! The book is incredibly informative, and the photos are so beautiful. Thanks again for your time and efforts in helping provide this wonderful gift!” -Darren Martin, Florida
“The adoption package is great, better than I expected! We looked into many “adoption” options for our sloth-obsessed niece and, as an animal behaviorist myself, I was so pleased to see that we would be supporting such wonderful conservation efforts with your organisation.” -Anne Farrell, Australia
2. SLOTHS 2021 wall calendar ($14.99 / £10.99)
Receiver of the Amazon Choice Award for ‘best sloth calendar’ for the fourth year running!
Channel your inner sloth and ease into 2021 with the ultimate sloth calendar!
Each month features spectacular photographs of sloths paired with exclusive “behind the scenes” captions. Five different species of sloth are showcased, including swimming pygmy sloths and the maned sloths of Brazil!
The imagery is accompanied by fun sloth facts, written by world sloth expert and SloCo founder Dr. Rebecca Cliffe. Each month also includes a wide open grid with plenty of space to jot down all of those special dates and anniversaries, and it is complemented by the inclusion of a 12 month yearly planner. This 12” x 12” inspiring calendar is guaranteed to brighten your day!
“I knew this was going to be adorable, but I didn’t expect being unable to suppress a big smile each time I flipped to a new page of this gorgeously photographed calendar. These are the best sloth photos I’ve ever come across. Every one captures some new aspect of these sweet sloths, evoking emotion in me, my husband, and son. What a wonderful gift!”
This stunning coffee-table style book takes readers on an immersive journey through the jungles of South America to discover the secret lives of sloths! The story is illustrated through spectacular imagery capturing some of the most intimate and rarely seen moments, while the narrative provides fascinating insights into the previously unknown habits of these unusual animals!
“If you love sloths you need this book! The photos are amazing and it’s packed full of interesting information, even as a sloth lover I learned loads of new facts!”
“GORGEOUS and unusual coffee table book. Great gift for friends, family members, travelers, wildlife enthusiasts, students, and of course – sloth lovers!”
4. Sponsor a Sloth Crossing ($200 / £150)
This donation will buy the raw materials needed to construct a full single-rope canopy bridge to help sloths travel safely across roads and between forest fragments in urban areas.
If you sponsor a Sloth Crossing then we will install a personalized wooden plaque next to the bridge engraved with a name of your choice (this would make a fantastic gift for any sloth lover)! With your bridge sponsorship, we will email an information pack as well as photos and the GPS location of the finished bridge and plaque after installation. We will also notify you when wildlife start using your sponsored bridge!
“I’m not sure there is another example of a conservation effort with such instant gratification! My background is wildlife biology, environmental law/policy, and animal welfare. In my 20+ years working in those fields, I have never seen such a simple, yet effective way to immediately mitigate habitat loss. Kudos to all involved!” -Michelle Land, New York
5. ‘Hang in There’ Canvas Sloth Tote Bag ($17 /£13)
Get rid of all the plastic and show off your love for sloths with this spacious natural canvas tote bag designed exclusively to benefit sloth conservation!
By planting sloth-friendly trees through our reforestation program in Costa Rica, you can provide safe habitat for sloths, protect biodiversity and help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s a triple win!
You can make a custom donation to plant a particular number of trees, and we will choose tree species that are favoured by wild sloths for you! We will then plant them in key conservation areas where habitat loss is threatening the survival of sloths. If you sponsor some trees as a gift, we can send a gift certificate, information packet and photos of the trees on request (just send us an email after your purchase)!
7. Protect 20 square meters of primary rainforest for sloths ($50 / £38)
Habitat loss from the destruction of trees is the greatest threat to the survival of sloths. 100% of your donation will go towards purchasing and protecting threatened primary rainforest habitat in the South Caribbean region (Limón) of Costa Rica where sloth populations are suffering. If this is a gift, we can send a gift certificate and information packet on request (just send us an email after your purchase)!
We have launched a range of sloth activity booklets which use fun facts, activities and puzzles to help children learn all about sloths and wildlife conservation. It is perfect for use with school groups, or just as a way to keep your child entertained for hours! We currently offer two downloadable PDF versions of the booklet: one for preschool children and one for ages 8-10. The booklets are available in both English and Spanish.
Taking a lazy day to stay in your PJs seems like a fitting way to celebrate the world’s slowest moving mammal. However, International Sloth Day (October 20th) is more than an excuse to take it easy, it is a day to recognize an important member of tropical ecosystems.
Protecting sloths and the habitat in which they live ultimately benefits a whole host of other species, from poison dart frogs to Great Green Macaws. Not all species, such as velvet worms, receive the same kind of attention and love that sloths receive. Conserving sloths leads to the protection of these lesser known species and the preservation of the beautifully complex ecosystems they are a part of.
Sloths remind us to slow down
In addition to keeping our forests healthy, sloths inspire us to slow down. They are a valuable antidote to fast-paced digital world we live in. Like the classic story of the tortoise versus the hare, sloths are living examples that there are many ways to be “successful” in this world.
Because of their laid-back lifestyle, they have become an emblem of the “pura vida” lifestyle in Costa Rica. They are also a symbol of the tourism industry in Costa Rica, since they embody the spirit of vacation.
Sloths are perfectly designed for a quiet, solitary life in the canopy of the rainforest. However, their rainforest home becomes more fragmented and degraded with each passing day.
In the South Caribbean of Costa Rica (where we are based) we get daily notifications of sloths getting stranded in unlikely places, from busy roads to restaurants. It is clear indicator of the pressure we are putting on them and their forest homes.
The good news is that you don’t have to get out of your PJ’s to celebrate sloth day. This year we will be offering a variety of virtual events that you can tune into from your sofa! From Slow Flow Sloth Yoga to a live Q&A session, we hope that sloths bring you some tranquility and inspiration during this trying year. Remember to take a breath, take a sloth nap, the world will look a bit better after some rest.
Let’s be honest – 2020 is turning out to be an extra-ordinary year for all of the wrong reasons. It has been mentally and financially tough for individuals and organizations everywhere. Now, more than ever before, it feels like we are all just ‘hanging in there’ until life can get back to normal.
In response to the hard-times, we are excited to launch the Hang In There Challenge as a way to have some fun, spread positivity and highlight the sloth’s surprising superpowers – all while hopefully raising some funds to support our sloth conservation efforts!
How long can you ‘hang’ like a sloth for?
Nothing complicated – just holding onto a bar with your hands and dangling. Technically this straightforward maneuver is called the ‘dead hang‘, and you might be surprised by how difficult it is! Very few people are able to hang on for longer than 1 minute, and the dead hang world record is only 13 minutes 52 seconds!
‘Hanging on’ is the sloth’s secret weapon. You might think that the only thing a sloth can do for a prolonged period is sleep, but you would be mistaken (although sloths are also the undisputed nap champions of the world).
A sloth can easily dangle underneath a tree branch all day long. In fact, they often fall asleep like this! We have even watched a sloth hang from just one arm – with the elbow at a 90 degree angle – for over 15 minutes! These incredible feats of strength and stamina would make any human gymnast jealous.
1. Find an appropriate horizontal overhead ‘bar’ to dangle from.
This could be a pull-up bar, a climbing frame, a tree branch… get creative! Just make sure that whatever you are holding onto is secure and can support your body weight.
2. Set up your camera, or ask a friend to film you.
3. Grip the ‘bar’ with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) and take your feet off the floor.
Keep your arms straight. Don’t adjust your grip, let go with one hand or change position.
4. Time how long you can hang in there for!
5. Upload your effort to social media (Facebook, Instagram or TikTok)
Make sure that you tag us in your post or story – @slothconservation
Use the hashtag #HangInThereChallenge
Nominate 3 friends to also take the challenge by tagging them in your post
There are 2 awards available:
The Hang In There Challenge Champion – awarded to the person who ‘hangs in there’ the longest!
The Most Creative Hanger – awarded to the person who’s entry makes us smile the most!
Winners will be awarded with the ultimate sloth-lovers goodie bag! This includes a beautiful sloth book, our 2021 sloth calendar, a ‘hang in there’ tote bag, Hang In There Champion Certificate and some extra mystery surprises.
To be in with a chance of winning, you need to make a donation to support our work and upload your donation receipt to social media along with your video! The donation amount is totally up to you – we will monitor all entries and winners will be announced on the 31st October via our social media channels!
Disclaimer: please be careful when participating in this challenge (after all, sloths are very careful creatures)! While there are lots of positive health benefits to this exercise (improves strength, decompresses the spine and stretches out the upper body), you must be responsible for your own safety. Make sure you are hanging from a secure ‘bar’ that can support your body weight, and work your way up in duration to prevent injury. If you are pregnant or have back / shoulder problems, consult your doctor or a personal trainer for advice. The Sloth Conservation Foundation is not responsible for any injuries incurred while participating in this challenge!
The good news is, there are ways to travel that can actually benefit local wildlife, including sloths! But how can you tell which businesses and hotels have actually made meaningful changes to help wildlife and which ones only appear to be “green”?
Introducing the Sloth Friendly Network
Thankfully, travelers coming to the South Caribbean of Costa Rica will no longer have to guess which businesses are friendly to wildlife, because we have been developing a program to address this exact issue!
The Sloth Friendly Network (SFN) is an accreditation program to help concerned travelers make informed choices by highlighting local businesses that have been doing their upmost to help wildlife in the area.
The central aim of the program is to endorse sloth friendly tourism and responsible business ownership by engaging travelers and visitors as partners in conservation.
The South Caribbean is known for its wild and beautiful beaches. It is not uncommon to be basking in the warm Caribbean Sea while you watch a sloth starting to stir after its afternoon nap, munching on beach almond trees.
Perhaps you hear a group of howler monkeys calling in the distance. These unique creatures sharing these wonderful and wild spaces with us, make the South Caribbean a truly enchanting place to be. A place whose biodiversity draws millions of tourists from all over the world each year.
However, would they be willing to pay slightly more to an organization that protects wildlife? While there are some surveys that have shown that people support environmentally friendly practices such as plastic reduction, water conservation, and carbon neutral commitments, there isn’t much research on people’s opinions on wildlife conservation.
In order to determine the importance of wildlife conservation to tourists, we created a survey with two simple questions:
1. When traveling, would you be more willing to book with a hotel/tour guide that supports conservation of local wildlife over other companies?
2. Would you be willing to spend more for a hotel/tour guide that supports conservation?
A third question on demographics was added to see if any meaningful patterns emerged: “What is your age range?”
This survey indicates that there is a strong preference to support organizations that help protect local wildlife. Additionally, the responses indicate that the majority of people are willing to pay more.
The results of this survey are meaningful for those in the tourism industry as it suggests that by supporting the conservation of local wildlife, they could have a competitive advantage over other companies in the area.
Reaching out to local businesses
Armed with this new knowledge, we were able to make the case to local businesses that tourists truly care about wildlife conservation and are even willing to pay more to reduce the impact of their travel.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to start from scratch because we have had the privilege of working with many local hotels and businesses through our Connected Gardens program.
These organizations have supported our sloth conservation efforts by reconnecting habitat on their properties through Sloth Crossings and reforesting and helping to educate their clients by sharing our educational materials.
We have had the honor of working with these wonderful individuals over the past couple of years and we are proud to officially recognize them as part of the Sloth Friendly Network. As our network grows and we continue to accredit local businesses and organizations in the area, we hope that this will be a useful resource for travelers who interested in wildlife-friendly tourism.
These photos are some of the highlights from our recent visits to drop off education materials (and the certificates of course!) to these Platinum members of the Sloth Friendly Network. Thank you so much for supporting sloth conservation and making it possible to coexist with wildlife in a mutually beneficial way!
Stay tuned as we add more businesses! And if you ever have the chance to visit the South Caribbean of Costa Rica be sure to check out these awesome places!
The dog days (are never over): Why caring for dogs helps sloths
Happy International Dog day everyone! While there seems to be a day for quite literally everything right now, a day dedicated to celebrating dogs is something that is pretty important to many of us! And it makes sense that the Day of the Dog is at the end of summer.
Have you heard of the “dog days of summer“? Well Dog Day is right in the middle of them! To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” began when the dog star, Sirius, could be seen rising just before the sun came up.”Dog days” are traditionally the hot, sultry days of summer which are known for heat, thunderstorms, lethargy, mad dogs and bad luck. Sounds about right!
Leash laws vary by country but even where it is illegal to have a dog off the leash (like in Costa Rica for example), many people allow their animals to roam, unsupervised, with no repercussions. Unfortunately, the animals that suffer the repercussions are wild animals, like sloths.
Ultimately this is not the dog’s fault, as they naturally have predator instincts. Certain breeds in particular have a very high prey drive. However, it is up to the owner to properly train and supervise their canine companions to prevent the injury and ultimate extinction of local wildlife species.
How can we prevent dogs from attacking wildlife?
In the South Caribbean we have implemented a program to help control stray dog populations with our “Oh My Dog” initiative!
In this project we sponsor the spaying and neutering of stray dogs (or for families that cannot afford it) as well as promote the responsible ownership of domestic animals. Other ways that we help to protect sloths from dogs include:
Building canopy bridges to prevent the sloths from having to come to the ground.
Planting trees to bridge gaps in the canopy.
Promoting adopting or rescuing dogs over buying a dog.
These are measures that we have already implemented in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica, but they are important worldwide.
Aside from reducing stray dog populations, all dog owners can help protect wildlife by training their dog! We have compiled some top tips for you to help prevent your pet from causing wild animal deaths, wherever you may be.
BONUS: Training is a great bonding opportunity for you and your pets!
Tip 1: Supervise your pet
Always make sure that you are watching your animal (especially at night) and check the yard before letting them out. If that is not possible, or your pet needs to be outside, use a long line or tether to make sure they are unable to reach wild animals.
Tip 2: Use brightly coloured collars
Use brightly coloured collars and/or collars with a bell to alert wildlife to their presence.
Tip 3: Teach your dog how to come when called
This training tip not only helps to ensure the safety of wildlife but is an incredibly valuable tool to keep your dog out of harm’s way.
Tip 4: Teach your dog to stop or stay
Like learning how to come when called, learning to stop or stay is another great way to ensure the safety of wildlife and your pet.
Tip 5: Stop dog aggression
Aggression can often get in the way of you having a good time with your canine pal. Here are some tips for curbing some of those aggressive instincts!
For more awesome training techniques on how to prevent your dog from attacking other animals, check out this helpful website!
5 fun facts for dog day!
Now that we’ve gotten the training out of the way, here are 5 fun facts about dogs in honor of International Dog Day!
Dogs have wet noses because the moisture helps to trap air particles helping them to smell better! Does wetting your nose make a difference? Give it a shot!
Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic! Remember watching that film and thinking all the dogs probably didn’t survive? Well three did! They were all small dogs (like a Pomeranian puppy) and were smuggled on the lifeboat. Sorry Jack.
Interested in supporting our efforts to protect sloths by helping dogs?
Currently we fund the spaying and neutering of dogs on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in conjunction with two other great organisations: Puerto Viejo Dogs & Clinica Vetenario: Dr Arroyo y Dr Solano. Puerto Viejo Dogs rescues dogs from the streets, or ones taken by the government in abuse cases, and they fund the care for injured and/or sick dogs and cats. They also foster animals for adoption and so much more. They work with a wonderful veterinary clinic here, Clinica Vetenario: Dr Arroyo y Dr Solano, who spend their spare time providing free care to animals in need.
Both are amazing organisations in the South Caribbean and the animals here are so lucky to have them (follow them online to see more of their amazing work). To protect sloths while caring for dogs, we assist with the costs of spaying/neutering which can range from $30-$50 per animal. To continue helping the animals of the area and to help us assist even MORE animals you can join us by donating to the Oh My Dog project or sponsoring a spay/neuter for an animal in need here! Helping sloths, by helping dogs!
Cotton swabs, cotton buds, Q-tips – they have a lot of names. Now even these single-use plastic products can be replaced by biodegradable alternatives!
3) Plastic-free toothbrushes and toothpaste
Toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste are a recurrent sources of plastic pollution. Fortunately, bamboo toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste jars are great substitutes!
4) Plastic-free razors
Like toothbrushes, disposable razors are common daily items that lead to an accumulation of plastic waste overtime. Although razors with replaceable heads are better than entirely disposable ones, there are razors that are plastic-free altogether! Paired with the right shaving cream, these plastic-free razors not only reduce your environmental footprint but minimize irritation due to the harsh chemicals found in most shaving foams.
Unfortunately many cosmetics, in addition to being packaged in plastic, are made from chemicals that threaten the health of humans and ecosystems alike. If you are concerned about the products you are currently using you can look up their safety status at the Environmental Working Groups’s Skin Deep database (or download their app!).
Buying in bulk is a great way to reduce plastic usage. However, companies such as Neat, have come up with an even better way to reduce plastic waste.
10) Plastic-free sandwich wraps
Whether or not you are a sandwich eater, these food wraps can be used for a variety of food items. You can even make reusable food wraps at home by choosing a bit of your favorite cloth and melting on some beeswax!
This shift occurred for a variety of reasons: a coalescing of forces that led to a boom in consumerism post WWII and a desire on the part of businesses to harness this sudden rise in consumption to maximize profit.
The strategy that they devised was an unobvious one. In a pivotal moment at a plastics industry conference in 1956, a speaker looked out on the crowd and said, “your future is in the garbage wagon.” Instead of creating products that would last, the speaker proposed that they needed to create products that were intended to be thrown away.
It was a brilliant tactic. If they could simply get people to throw things away, then they would come back to buy more.
People had to be taught to throw things away. There were a variety of education campaigns at the time explaining to consumers how to throw things away and manage their garbage.
The study of plastics and their effect on the environment has largely been focused on marine ecosystems (due to the visibility of plastic in the ocean and its dramatic implications for marine and human life). Only as recently as 2012 have we begun to evaluate the effect of plastics on soil and plants.
Our understanding is still a theoretical one. As plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces, the likelihood that they can leach harmful chemicals into the environment increases.
Reducing our plastic consumption individually and collectively reduces our exposure to harmful chemicals while combating climate change. Moreover, reducing our consumption of plastic helps to safeguard the future of the vulnerable: sloths and people alike.
It may be disheartening to realize that the immense amount of plastic pollution that we and our ecosystems face today stemmed from a deliberate plan to maximize profits.
However, if we learned how to throw things away, we can learn how to reuse them again.
Eliminating plastic from your life may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, we don’t have to start from scratch. Organizations such as Plastic Freedom, with their line of plastic-free products, are dedicated to bringing about a future without plastic.
They offer plastic-free alternatives ranging from toothpaste to dental floss to razors. There is a good chance that the item you are looking for comes in a refillable version free from plastic.
Moreover, for every order they receive, they plant a tree somewhere in the world. These trees help to restore habitat and replenish the natural resources that we depend upon.
Sloths and cacao: You can have your chocolate cake and eat it too
There comes a point in childhood when we begin to understand the concept of finite resources. The oft-used phrase, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” captures the idea that we often have to choose between the things that we love.
However, if you love sloths AND chocolate, you might not have to make that painful choice between enjoying chocolate cake and enjoying the presence of sloths in the wild.
Where chocolate comes from
Chocolate comes from a medium-sized tree that grows in the understory of tropical forests. Growing directly from the bark of the cacao tree are large colorful pods, that are filled with seeds covered in a thin layer of sweet, fruity pulp. Once mature, the seeds are harvested, fermented, roasted and ground to make chocolate. Traditionally chocolate was drank unsweetened and has deep cultural and spiritual significance for many indigenous communities.
The origins of cacao
Because cacao grows best in the shade of other trees they are often found in agroforestry systems.Agroforestry systems consist of food crops growing underneath a forest canopy and have been cultivated by indigenous communities for thousands of years.
You may be accustomed to hearing how many food crops, from palm plantations to pineapples, threaten wildlife in tropical ecosystems. Large monocultures inundated with pesticides and herbicides threaten the health of humans and wildlife alike while reducing and fragmenting the habitat that remains.
Monilia arrived in Costa Rica in the 1970s. Shortly thereafter, CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) started developing resistant strains of cacao that are used on many farms today.
In addition to monilia, one of the main threats to cacao today is the shift that small farmers of Costa Rica are concerned about. The abandoning of small-scale farming in exchange for industrial-scale farming and a growing disinterest in the next generation.
After monilia swept through the region, many cacao farms were abandoned. However, thanks to the resistant strains and the hard work of farmers, cooperatives and scientists, chocolate in the region may not have a bitter future after all.
Finca La Cabra Feliz (The Happy Goat Farm)
Finca La Cabra Feliz (The Happy Goat Farm) is an agroforestry farm just north of Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica. We had the pleasure of visiting Don Roberto Selina’s certified organic, Fair Trade, and Bandera Azul accredited farm which is home to a great variety of fruiting trees and wildlife (and happy goats of course)!
In addition to producing chocolate, fresh goat milk, and a diversity of tropical fruits, Don Roberto Selina has a tree nursery of his own, planting endangered trees such as the Cola de Pavo (Turkey’s tail tree) (Hymenolobium mesoamericanum).
Don Roberto Selinas’s farm is an invaluable resource for the ecological and local community. He believes in sharing. The fruit growing on the trees is plentiful enough to be shared with wildlife and he teaches agroecology to local students and visitors that come to the farm.
La Cabra Feliz was brought to our attention because it isone of the model farms that is part of a local cacao cooperative, Coopecacao Afro, which unites and supports Afro-Caribbean communities. At the helm is Don Edgar Campbell, a respected community member, teacher and thought leader.
Central to Coopecacao Afro’s mission is the understanding and appreciation of natural systems, actively cultivating and making space for the biodiversity that sustains us. They remember the time when the river was full of fish that could sustain families (before the arrival of banana plantations). They speak of a striking a green and black bird that was a staple of life in the Caribbean which can no longer be found.
CoopeCacao Afro and many other farmers are concerned by the loss of biodiversity and the transition away from ways of life that are more in harmony with the natural world. They aim to preserve the cacao agroforestry systems that remain while educating the next generation, strengthening communities and ensuring a future for these valuable communal resources.
How can you get involved?
If you are interested in purchasing chocolate that is wildlife-friendly and empowering to communities, look for Fair Trade, shade-grown cacao. Be on the lookout for ingredients such as palm oil which threaten a variety of wildlife from critically endangered orangutans to grey-capped central american squirrel monkey in Costa Rica.
If you have the chance of visiting or living in a country where cacao is grown, engaging in agro-tourism that supports small farms such as Don Roberto Selinas is a wonderful way to learn firsthand about the how cacao is grown and processed (and of course you can buy these delicious products directly from the farmer!).
We at SloCo are developing a sloth-friendly chocolate program, designed to benefit sloths and the communities they reside in. Due to the ongoing pandemic and social distancing measures, some of our community-based programs have been put on pause. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will be launching this program, so stay tuned!
Sloth starts using a wildlife bridge in record time
This video of a three-fingered sloth using a wildlife bridge is the exciting result of the coordinated efforts of many people. We installed a Sloth Crossing for her and she started using it in record time (less than a month!). You might think that a month is still quite a long time, but given that it takes 30 days for a sloth to digest a single leaf, this is quite a fast turn around!
We install Sloth Crossing wildlife bridges like this as part of our Connected Gardens program. These rope bridges connect trees on private properties, ensuring that sloths and other wildlife can safely access these important resources (without having to travel on the ground).
Helping a three-fingered sloth safely reach her favorite trees
This three-fingered sloth is a beloved resident of Annanci Village, a retreat for families visiting the South Caribbean. She spends much of her time nestled among the epiphytes and vines growing on a massive tree. Although the tree is no longer alive, it is covered by plants living on its branches, a perfect place for her to rest and remain hidden.
Fortunately, there isn’t a dog living on the property that could attack her. However, crossing on the ground is a difficult and laborious process for sloths due to their unique and specialized muscle structure. She is also much more vulnerable to predators on the ground than suspended in the tree canopy.
Because they are such creatures of habit, it can be difficult to get sloths to modify their behavior.
An exciting discovery!
Foforo (Yorjes Salazar Elizondo), the manager of Annanci Village, was attending to some clients when he noticed that the sloth was using the rope bridge to reach the cecropia tree!
He ran to get his camera and was able to capture these wonderful photos of her using the bridge! Now she doesn’t have to cross on the ground, giving her easy access to her two favorite trees!
Bobby’s wildlife bridge: how sloth crossings help other species
At Faith Glamping, a unique camping experience for those visiting the South Caribbean, another dangerous situation for wildlife emerged. The owners noticed that a troop of howler monkeys would frequently visit the property, and in order to get across a gap in the trees, they would have to jump.
One time, when a mother howler monkey was jumping across this gap, her baby fell and hit the stump of a tree below, dying upon impact. The owners of the property were heartbroken and named this fallen monkey Bobby. We built a triangle of three rope bridges to connect this valuable tree to others on the property and the owners named the bridge where he fell, Bobby’s bridge.
Imagine if a deep canyon with a raging river at the bottom was created in front of your favorite place to get food. Although you might be motivated enough to hike down and up a canyon and brave the rapids in order to get to your favorite place, it may deter you enough that you may not return. Even if you do manage to reach your favorite spot, you will have risked your safety or exerted much more energy than you did before the obstacle was in place.
How rope bridges reduce the risk of extinction
Rope bridges not only allow for wildlife to safely and more easily access parts of their habitat, they also allow for gene flow – allowing individuals to reproduce with other individuals that they might not have been able to reach before. This allows for more genetic diversity, making the population more resilient to change and reducing the chance of the species becoming extinct.
In the video below, a male three-fingered sloth crossed a road using a rope bridge to reach a female calling to him on the other side (Video: Katra Laidlaw).
Thanks to the coordinated efforts of our generous donors, concerned community members and the SloCo team, many species are now able to safely navigate the habitat that we share with them. Thank you to Animalia, Jennifer, Adam and April for sponsoring Sloth Crossing bridges at Annanci Village and for helping to keep this sloth (and other wildlife) on the property safe.
Coexisting with wildlife can be a mutually beneficial experience. It requires just a bit of compromise from both sides. Willingness on our part to consider how we can modify our shared landscape and behavior in ways that are more accommodating to wildlife, and willingness on their part to adapt to the changes we have made for them.
The good news is that if it is possible for an incredibly habitual creature, like a sloth, to change her ways, it is certainly possible for us to adjust ours.
This map shows all of the places that we have installed Sloth Crossing wildlife bridges (blue) and planted trees through our reforestation efforts (green) thus far (since February 2019).
Would you like to sponsor your own Sloth Crossing?
Each “Sloth Crossing” bridge costs $200 to construct (in the most basic form: a single rope design without a camera trap). If you would like to help us to build more bridges (or personally sponsor your own sloth crossing), you can do so using the links below. If you sponsor a Sloth Crossing then we will install a personalized wooden plaque next to the bridge engraved with a name of your choice (this would make a fantastic gift for any sloth lover)! For gift sponsorships we can also email an information pack as well as photos and a GPS location of the fished bridge and plaque after installation on request (just send us an email after your donation)!