Sloth traditions and reflections by The Sloth Institute #BorntobeWild

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Milena and Piper

Milena and Piper

No matter where you are from or what traditions you celebrate, holidays are about family. Usually family is the group of people that you are born into but often, family is also a group of people that you choose. You create traditions together and celebrate big events. When one family member suffers, you suffer. When one family member is happy, you are happy. For me…I am lucky enough to have multiple different families. I have my amazing family in North Carolina that is always supportive of my animal crusades in other countries…never complaining that they don’t see me enough but instead they tell me they are proud. Then I also have my KSTR and TSI families here in Costa Rica made up of amazing staff and volunteers that all want to help make the world a better place for animals…there is nothing better than surrounding yourself with other crazy animal people! In addition to this amazing network of human families….I’m also lucky enough to have a sloth family and to be creating sloth traditions. Sloths like Kermie, Ellen and Monster…who I hand-raised myself and have known for over 2 years…I would walk through fire for them and nothing is more exciting that watching them on this release journey. Sloths like Zumba who I’ve only known for 6 months but who’s personality is so full of life that his crazy antics have us laughing regularly.

Then there are the nursery sloths: Elvis and Bruno – they’ve been friends since their first few weeks of life. They love to wrestle and play and climb, eat side by side and feed each other’s curiosity…they are doing so well that they will be moved to a bigger outdoor cage soon….another important step on their journey to becoming wild. Madonna – who doesn’t like to admit that she is even a part of a family because she is the first baby sloth I have ever met who hates all other baby sloths. She would much rather climb around and eat mango leaves that cuddle with friends….luckily those are important skills she will need in the wild so she is on her way to a bigger outdoor cage as well! Then there is Kiwi – he arrived at KSTR because his mother was killed by a dog and he was found next to her lifeless body. He was probably about 6 months old when he came and luckily is a great eater but his confidence hasn’t grown with his body and I can’t help but wonder if the traumatizing way he was orphaned plays a role in his lack of confidence today. Beyoncé is the final two-toed member of the family and the youngest. She was named after a thorough iTunes search and decision was made before anything was really known about her personality or skills. But after watching her go to the toilet regularly…we’ve realized what a great ‘dancer’ she is and her name has become even more appropriate.

The three-toed sloths in the nursery are smaller in number with only Piper, the new baby and Milena. Piper is happiest when climbing around outside or hanging upside down for a good scratch in the breeze. The newest baby is so small. He’s only about a month old and arrived just a couple of weeks ago. He is developing his own personality but so far he is doing great and eating everything he is offered. Last but not least there is “Momma Sloth – Milena”. Being the only adult in the nursery….her story is the most detailed and perhaps the most heartbreaking. She was in a tree while it was being cut down and fell with the tree. Her arm was broken in the process and a day later she gave birth! Unfortunately, she lost her baby after a month of us trying to help her raise him. She received surgery for her arm to apply pins and fixators to help the bone heal faster. Unfortunately the bone was not healing with the pins inside and just recently we had to remove them and fit her with an old fashioned cast instead. Her recovery has been long and there are still more months that she will need to be in rehab at KSTR but her spirit has stayed strong and her appetite has never wavered! I am confident she will make it back out into the jungle where she belongs.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to talk about the nursery without also honoring those we have lost this year. First was Locket back in May…having raised him from only hours old….his loss was particularly difficult on me and I still miss him. Most recently we also lost Chuck and Paddington. Chuck was a fan favorite and I know people from across the world will miss photos of his insanely adorable face…I actually named him after my father because of his crazy hair and sweet disposition. Paddington was another one of my favorites. He was the first to seek out food if his guarumo leaf wasn’t changed quickly enough and he invented the best way to climb down the tree for a poop. Every time we lose a sloth…I mourn them and I miss them….and while time helps to heal the wounds I’ll never forget them. We also send tissue samples from their necropsy to labs in San Jose for analysis that we hope will yield information that helps to save other sloths.

It’s the end of the year and reflecting on all that we have accomplished in 2015 I am excited for 2016 and all that we will accomplish for our sloth family…those being rehabilitated now and every single sloth in the wild that needs our help to stay there and stay healthy and happy. #BorntobeWild #slothlove

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