Release of Squirrel Monkeys at KSTR

Margarita with Squirrel monkeys for articleBy Volunteer Margarita Samsonova

Kids Saving the Rainforest is in the process of establishing a reintroduction program for squirrel monkeys. Central American squirrel monkeys, also known as Saimiri oerstedi, are nearly extinct in Panama and are threatened in Costa Rica. There are only 4,000 individuals living in the wild, mostly in Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks, located on Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

The low population of Central American squirrel monkeys makes reintroduction programs of these species very important to sustain the population and help reproduction. In order for the release to be successful, the monkey’s behavior and its predator responses are tested to see what chance the animal has to survive in the wild. The project requires sustained long term observations and research to ensure a successful reintroduction into the wild.

One of our volunteers, Margarita Samsonova, is dedicating her time to observing candidates for release and has been testing their ability to respond to predators. The predator experiments were set on the monkeys six times using the scents of predators who are also rehabilitating in the rescue center. Scents of animals who hunt squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica such as dogs, white- faced monkeys, kinkajous and hawks were used along with their recorded vocalizations to test predator response. Pieces of cloth were placed in the predators’ enclosures overnight and then placed with the vocal recordings in the squirrel monkey enclosure the next day.

A few of the squirrel monkeys had previously been kept as pets, so it is crucial to observe their reaction and behavior to get an idea of whether the release would be successful or not. It was observed that only four of the six candidates displayed “appropriate” behavior and reacted to the predator sound and smell the same as a squirrel monkey in the wild would. Two of those candidates didn’t approach the cloth with scent, meaning that they sensed the predators’ presence and didn’t want to risk danger. The other two squirrel monkeys, after some time observing the cloth, did get the food from it but retreated to eat it, which could mean that they saw no presence of predators and decided to quickly grab the food—a normal behavior of squirrel monkeys in the wild. The remaining two individuals came right to the cloth once it was put out; they didn’t react to any vocalizations and didn’t move from the cloth to eat the food, which could mean that those animals were domesticated and may have lost their natural instinct.

The testing of behavior will continue until the beginning of April and the planned release is in mid-April. It is believed that pre-release monitoring and experiments will help to determine an estimation of which of the candidates would have high survival rates during reintroduction.

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Tales from the Wildlife Rescue Center

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Raising and Preparing a Kinkayou for a Life in the Wild
By Pia Martin DVM, KSTR Wildlife Vet

Kinkayous (Potos flavus) and in Spanish “Martillas”, are medium size mammals (40-55cms long, weighing 2-3kg), brownish colored from the Procyonid family. This means they are nocturnal, live in pairs or by themselves and are arboreal and terrestrial; just like raccoons (Procyon lotor) and coatis (Nasua narica). However, they have unique characteristics that make them very special in the rainforest. For example: although they are categorized as carnivores, they do not eat meat. Their diet is basically fruits, flowers, and rarely they will eat a bird’s egg or an insect. They have a 5 inch tongue that helps them get nectar from flowers making them pollinators. Their ankles and wrists can rotate more than most mammals helping them climb up and down trees and walk in branches easily. They also have a long prehensile tail that can wrap itself around a branch and hold on to most of the animal’s weight so it can hang and reach for a fruit in a lower branch.

They are endangered due to the loss of their habitat (deforestation, forest fragmentation, civilization), they were hunted for food in the past and also to use their coat as the bristles in paintbrushes. They are also caught and sold in the pet trade. Here in Manuel Antonio, kinkajous are common but difficult to observe since they only come out at night and stay mainly in the trees. Their main threats are electrocutions, being hit by cars, and attacks by dogs.

Last year we received a very small, furry animal with a huge head; small eyes and long tail. It was a newborn kinkajou found by a woman in Parrita who was walking towards her house and spotted him on the ground by himself. She gave him to MINAET and they brought him to us.

Raising a kinkajou is definitely a extraordinary situation. At first we had to syringe feed him formula with probiotics, and he slept all day and all night. As he was growing we changed to a bottle and started introducing fruits and veggies, and put him into a playpen with stuffed animals, branches, ropes, and live trees.

Now, that he feeds on his own, is very active at night, and he is starting to search for his independence, we are beginning to do a soft release. Every night, the animal caretaker and me, open his cage and let him come out. He follows us into the jungle, just like he would follow his mom. We are training him to explore the world, search for his food using his sense of smell, hide from predators or unknown noises and get away from people. We are letting him climb up very tall trees and develop strong muscles in his hind legs, forearms, and tail so that he will feel secure moving in the canopy of the trees. Every time he achieves a little challenge we give him a prize- a small piece of grape or really sweet mango. It is difficult since we have to do it at night and we are always looking out for snakes and also afraid that he might run away before he is ready and that we will not be able to catch him.

But for the time being, he is still used to us so he is not leaving yet; but when the time comes and he knows how to find food, shelter, and company, he will leave and follow his instinct. We just need to prepare him well to survive and reproduce in the rainforest, just as he was meant to be; free and happy.

Q&A: The Rainforest, Pollution, & Environmental Conservation

rainforest photo

with Biologist Rebecca Fox and questions from

Medea Creek Teen Club in Oak Park, CA

1.    What are the downsides of living in the rainforest? Why?

Humidity! It is very difficult to air dry clothing. Some electronics like cameras or laptops are affected by the extreme humidity.  There are so many living things here, that you can find scorpions in your shoes, plants growing in your washing machine and mold on anything made from leather if you do not use them for a few days.

2.    How does the greenhouse effects effect the rainforest’s ecosystem

The trees in the rainforest convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. With increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the current number of trees in the rainforest cannot convert it fast enough. When rainforest is cut down or burned, all the carbon dioxide collected by the trees during their lifetime returns to the atmosphere. Rising global temperatures can disrupt the life cycles of plants. They can start to produce flowers and fruit at different times of the year and this in turn affects the animals that rely on these plants as a food source. If the change in global temperature is slow, some plants and animals may have time to adapt to a new environment. Others may migrate towards the poles as their habitat becomes too hot. If the temperature increases quickly, they will not have a chance to adapt or migrate, and many species in the tropics will go extinct.

3.    How does the evolution of our world (i.e. cars, planes, etc.) effect the growth of our rainforests?

As globalization and technology advances, there is more demand for resources from rainforests. To manufacture smartphones, a mineral called Coltan is needed. The number one source of this mineral is located under the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the process of extracting the mineral from the earth the rainforest is cut down and rivers are polluted. This rainforest is home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, whose small population is now even more threatened due to the mining for smartphone minerals.

4.    How does pollution effect the evolution of species?

If pollution significantly alters the environment of a species, it can push that species to either adapt to the new conditions or to die. During the industrial revolution in England it was noticed that a new variety of peppered moth developed. Before the revolution a white bodied moth was commonly seen. Once large scale coal burning began and entire towns were polluted by soot, a black bodied moth began replacing the white peppered moth. This newly emerged species was named Biston betularia f. carbonaria, after the polluting substance that prompted its evolution. Any change in the environment can have an effect on the evolution of species, the difference with pollution is that we can control it.

5.    What would happen is army ants go extinct? Would the animals that depend on army ants (i.e. birds) adapt to their new life or would they die?

Different species of birds source their food from army ant raids. There are ‘obligate antbirds’ that rely completely on the activity of army ants for all of their food. Without army ants they do go extinct. Some other birds feed opportunistically on insects disrupted by army ants. In Monteverde, Costa Rica many species of passing migratory birds do follow army ants for food. This means that if army ants went extinct here in Costa Rica you might notice the disappearance of migratory thrushes or warblers in California.

6.    How much of the rainforest is still undiscovered or mysterious?

It is difficult to give an accurate measurement. Scientists estimate that there are still 30,000 plant species that we have not identified, and most of them will be found in rainforests. In 2005 some scientists looking at Mozambique on Google Earth came across a huge patch of rainforest surrounded by savannah. There was no information about this rainforest known to science. They went to explore this mysterious rainforest and on their first expedition discovered 10 new species including butterflies, snakes and chameleons.

7.    Judging by how much rain we have, how will the rainforest survive and how long will it still be a good habitat for animals?

The rainforest used to cover 14% of the earth’s land surface, today it just covers 6%. The rainforest is disappearing so quickly due to logging for wood and paper or agriculture. The future survival of the rainforest does not depend so much on the changing amounts of rainfall, it depends on the rate at which humans continue to destroy it. If we continue to destroy the rainforest at similar rates, 80-90% of the rainforest will disappear in the next 40 years. Over half of all animal and plant species on earth live in the rainforest. When their habitat disappears, so will they.

8.    With the animals going extinct because of pollution and the cutting of trees, how will it affect us?

Animals and plants of the rainforest may hold the secrets to curing many human diseases. 25% of modern medicines come from substances found in the rainforest. Right now scientists are studying the algae found on sloths as it may have the potential to kill cancer cells. Animals and plants in the rainforest are interdependent. Animals that act as pollinators, soil regenerators or seed dispersers are vital in the survival of many different types of plants that humans like to eat. If the bats, monkeys, birds and ants of the rainforest disappear, some foods like cashews, figs, avocados, vanilla and chocolate may disappear too or become very rare and expensive.

9.    The trees with rubber sap inside- when do you think that those types of trees will go extinct because of cutting them down too much?

When a natural resource is highly valued by people, such as the rubber from rubber trees, it is usually cultivated instead of being taken from the wild trees in the forest. This means that it is unlikely that the rubber tree will go extinct because people will keep planting them to harvest the rubber. Large rubber tree plantations can have a bad effect on the rainforests of Southeast Asia. There, the rainforest is cut down to make room for rubber plantations and this is pushing species such as the clouded leopard, macaques and gibbons towards extinction.

10.    How does the survival of the fittest apply to the rainforest?

Animals and plants that are best adapted to the rainforest environment will live long enough to reproduce and their species will be more likely to survive. This means they need to be well adapted to the high temperatures, high humidity and frequent rainfall. As the rainforest is cut down and the habitat becomes a mixture of rainforest patches with pastures for cattle and agricultural plantations, those animals that can survive in this new environment will survive longer. For example, here in Costa Rica the squirrel monkeys can live in fragmented rainforest and travel through agricultural lands, however the spider monkeys need large areas of untouched primary rainforest to survive.

A Sunday with no new BBC Nature’s Miracle Orphans show! What are we suppose to do now?

In case you didn’t know, KSTR was one of the sanctuaries featured on BBC One’s Nature’s Miracle Orphans. It was only a 2 part series and the world was mesmerized by the show! What did we have that made people lose their minds?

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Well, first we had easy on the eyes Presenter Max “Hug” Williams learning about our sloths and our anteater. so I’m sure that helped us out! 🙂

We also had our Wildlife Manager Sam Trull say,”You name it, I’ve probably done it with a sloth on me”. (Hmmmmmm…..) You saw her dedication to caring for the sloths as their new mama and doing everything possible that they make it until they are ready for release.

sam sloth

 

You also met Hannah Lindstrom who didn’t expect to fall in love with an anteater and let alone be filmed by BBC! Hannah’s dedication  to daily walks with him has helped Al the Anteater survive the big scary rainforest and we are thankful for it!

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Of course there would not have been a show without the starring characters! Thanks to Tiny,Newbie and Al for helping to educate us and all of you that were mesmerized by their story.

 

al newbie2 tiny

Thank you BBC for choosing us over several other sanctuaries ! You have introduced the UK and hopefully the world to Kids Saving the Rainforest. You also got folks to fall in love with animals that they would never see or probably even heard of.

The show is no longer available to see on BBC One’s IPlayer but guess what? We still have orphaned animals to care for. To help out all of the animals that we care for on a daily basis, please go here:

http://www.razoo.com/story/Kids-Saving-The-Rainforest

Thank you for continuing to support us and who knows maybe we’ll get another show in the near future!!

Save the Sloths with Kids Saving the Rainforest!

kermie ellen pelota

Named Pelota, Ellen and Kermie, these delightful close-knit threesome two-toed will hopefully become the first ever once orphaned baby sloths of their kind to be released in Costa Rica and the first in the world to be released with GPS collars. Two toed sloths typically spend up to two years with their mothers learning how to be wild. Three- toed sloths spend between 6 months and 1 year with their mothers learning to be wild. This time allows for the young to gain weight to stay warm, to learn how to find good shelter, what to eat, how to climb and to learn about predator avoidance. Vital to this process is the pre-release of the threesome into a 50 by 40 M “boot camp” facility with large trees and ample climbing opportunities which is being built by a group of volunteers on KSTR property this June. This will allow the three as well as the other up and coming youngsters to move into a protected environment that provides a needed learning environment before their release.

KSTR is raising funds to help facilitate this important project to outfit the sloths with tracking collars to ensure their safety and to study their behavior upon release. Kids Saving the Rainforest encourages you to get on board to maintain and preserve the magnificence of the rainforest and wildlife that is a vital part of Costa Rica.

For more info visit kidssavingtherainforest.org or view relevant updates on Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Kids-Saving-the-Rainforest/146280833519 or our blog athttps://kstr.wordpress.com/ You can also email jennifer@kidssavingtherainforest.org or call 011-506-2-777-2592 in Costa Rica.

A Day in the Life at KSTR

Do you really want to know what goes on here on a day-to-day basis? We live in Costa Rica on a beautiful property with over 70 animals that have to be fed twice a day.

Our mornings start at 7am with the cleaning of all the cages and food containers and then we proceed at 8am with the chopping of all of the fruits and veggies for the AM feeding. Then we must make sure all of the animals are taken care of: sanctuary,rescue center and the animals in the clinic. Certain animals need meds, goats milk or nan milk formula before even getting their actual food. Then cage by cage we deliver the food to our monkeys, kinkajous, raccoons, birds, porcupines and a squirrel.

 

food prep          Volunteer Martie Stothoff prepping food in the monkey kitchen

038FYI…we no longer feed animals bread…just in case you were wondering!

Feeding normally takes about 1 hour and up to 1 1/2hrs. Sometimes the marmoset monkeys like to play try to get me by escaping during the food delivery!  During  the feedings we do a count to make sure all of the animals are accounted for, check for injuries and check for any holes in the cages so that there are no escapees aka MARMOSETS!

alex volunteerFood delivery by volunteer Alex Jimenez

Once the animals are fed, there’s always work to be done . Enriching the animal’s cages plays a huge part in keeping the animals engaged and healthy so they can enjoy living out there lives at our sanctuary. Our volunteers play a huge part in the daily care taking and without them it would make it very difficult to do.

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cage enrichment

cage enrichment 2Getting enrichment ready for the cages

 

lily and barb electrocuted monkey

electrocuted titiAt any given time we can get a injured animal and we have to be ready to treat them.

alexmanVolunteer Alex Jimenez helping to release a titi monkey

 When we’re not feeding the animals we try to squeeze in some clicker training, which will come in handy when we need to weigh,give  shots or exam the animals.

clicker trainingBarb Braman and Vet Tech Sam Trull clicker training spider monkeys Darwin and Nina

observationsAt times when we are introducing animals for the first time into a cage, volunteers  need to do observations to make sure no fighting is going on and everyone is getting along. Observations are very important because you can also find out which one is the dominant animal.

We also have daily tours to educate tourist about Kids Saving the Rainforest and the animals that we care for everyday.

barb talking about marmosetsBarb Braman educating a group about marmosets

Besides taking care of our animals we do get to do fun things like making our own cheese  and learning about gardening.

cheese3Seanna Daise and Carissa Ward making mozzarella cheese

chip explaining pineapple plantationFinca Owner Chip Braman discussing what should be planted next in the garden

Our day starts with feeding and ends with feeding with activities in between  and  at the end of the day we have happy healthy full belly animals.

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Although we do feedings everyday twice a day, everyday is alway a different experience and full of surprises! So feel free to follow  our blog or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kids-Saving-the-Rainforest/146280833519 or visit our website: http://kidssavingtherainforest.org

simonsquirrelPhoto courtesy of Primatography/Sam Trull

Released with troop!!

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It takes a team of  people to rehab and then finally release a monkey back with her troop. Our KSTR crew were on call for a few days waiting for the phone call from either Tulemar or Los Altos in Costa Rica saying,”The monkeys are here!”

Did we always get there in time? Of course not, that would be to easy! They went to plan B of course. We knew the time the monkeys passed through everyday and we knew approximately where they would be, so they waited and waited….did you hear that? Monkeys are coming!!! Our Vet Tech Sam Trull holds up the carrier and tells the monkeys, ” I have your monkey!!!!!”

I think if they could talk I’m pretty sure they would’ve said thanks for taking care of our friend and bringing her back to our troop.