Two days ago, miraculously, I participated in something that was most likely a world first: the successful c-section of a three-toed sloth baby. I want to share this story for others—here it is from my point of view:A week ago we received an adult female three toed sloth at the KSTR wildlife rescue clinic. The sloth was brought by a young man who worked for a local hotel. He witnessed her fall from a tree. After trying to help her get back up and climb to her safety, he realized something more was wrong and called us for help. At first sight this sloth captivated my heart…she was having a seizure, but I swear we made eye contact and instantly I was hooked. At the time this was the first sloth seizure I had ever seen and true to sloth nature, it was a ‘slow’ seizure. It was more like a neurotic tick than a typical seizure seen in human and non-human primates. Upon examination I determined that she had not fractured her skull (yay!) and that she was pregnant (not so yay).After speaking with our vet, I started her medications and of course supportive care. Now it became a waiting game. A few days later she wasn’t looking much better. Her eyes were bright and her lungs sounded good, she just wasn’t moving much and still had some rigidity to her limbs. Her prognosis was not good and euthanasia was even discussed. I’ve seen a lot of animals pass away during the two years that I’ve worked in wildlife rescue here in Costa Rica and after each death I often think, “how can I keep doing this? It’s too hard” but somehow I find the will to keep fighting. That day, I wanted to keep fighting for this mom and her unborn baby, my gut told me not to give up. Two days later mom started to show signs of labor. I’ve never seen a sloth have contractions, but these ‘painful moments’ where her entire body seemed to be cramping and her arms reached out for anything to squeeze…really seemed like contractions to me! So I started documenting when they started and when they ended. But I couldn’t help but wonder if she could successfully have the baby with her prior injuries? Was a difficult pregnancy why she fell in the first place? The contractions were all over the place.There was no real pattern. After 24 hours of documenting her pain, she had an hour-long contraction, that was so intense, multiple times I thought at any moment her vagina would start to open and a head would crown. However, the contraction ended and still no baby. It became obvious to me that more diagnostics were needed in order to determine how best we could help this momma.Luckily, Volunteer, Sloth lover and friend; Seda Sejud serendipitously showed up to visit our newly built “Sloth Bootcamp”. But when I saw her I immediately asked, “Would you be able to take me and this Momma sloth to a vet about an hour from here? I think she is in labor and needs help.” Seda responded with a quick “yes” and off we went!We arrived at Veterinarian Yesse Alpizar, in Herradura. I’ve taken other patients to Yesse before. She is one of the kindest and smartest vets I’ve met and she also happens to have a clinic equipped with a digital X-ray and ultrasound machine. After getting a complete history on momma sloth, Yesse examined her and agreed with me that she was in labor. We first took an X-ray. It was amazing to see the little life inside of mom’s belly…but unfortunately the baby was in a breech position and mom was completely full of urine and feces (sloths can hold up to 30% of their body weight in urine/feces) meaning that the baby changing position wasn’t likely. At this point, c-section was discussed but we needed to check the baby with an ultrasound to confirm a heartbeat and the exact position. With the first swipe of the ultrasound probe, we didn’t see a heartbeat. My heart sank. Just one day before I had felt the baby move inside of mom’s belly. So I knew that recently it was alive and I could only hope that it still was. Yesse kept swiping the probe around mom’s belly searching and searching for a tiny flicker of the heart. Was the baby still alive?!?Luckily, I brought my camera…Momma sloth, patiently laying there for the ultrasound. Because of mom’s previous injuries she wasn’t able to fight much but we made every effort to keep her comfortable.Baby had a heartbeat!Xray showed that baby was breeched.After some deliberation and consultation with other vets, the decision to perform a c-section was made. To our knowledge this may likely be the first ever c-section on a wild three toed sloth.Because sloths can lose up to 30% of their body weight with one ‘visit to the toilet’, their bladders get REALLY big and can fill up their abdominal cavity. Surgeons had to remove over 100mls of urine from her bladder before they could reach the uterus.Me holding baby immediately after surgery to increase her body temperature. This method is called “skin to skin” and is used in human babies as a quick and effective way to reverse hypothermia which is a common complication in c-section births. (Photo by Seda Sejud)Both patients are still in critical condition fighting for their lives. Everyday I wake up (if I have been able to sleep) so grateful for the work I get to do here in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Sloth care requires a lot of patience, commitment, care and disappointment. We are hoping to eliminate much of the disappointment with the work we are doing. Send good thoughts.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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:
Thank you for continuing to support us and who knows maybe we’ll get another show in the near future!!
Back story of the filming of Nature’s Miracle Orphans
by Sam Trull, KSTR Wildlife Manager & Primatologist
After learning that KSTR was chosen as the Costa Rican Rescue Center to be featured in the BBC series, “Natures Miracle Orphans”, Hannah, one of our returning volunteers, and I literally ran screaming from the wildlife center and jumped fully-clothed into the pool, pausing only to remove our phones from our pockets. Somehow this gesture seemed like a perfect way to express our pure excitement about this wonderful opportunity; plus, let’s face it, we were really hot and sweaty because we live in the jungle. Read about BBC’s Nature’s Miracle Orphans Show airing mid-August
With almost 8 weeks of filming, participating in this series was a huge time commitment. However, towards the end of it, I found myself wishing it wasn’t going to be over. It’s really difficult to put into words how much this experience meant to me and how life changing it has been in many ways. The film crew was exceptional, was always respectful of the animals, and was a lot of fun to be around. Each day was a new and interesting challenge trying to figure out the best way to tell the animal’s stories while making time to film real life events and emergencies as they happened. At first, the process felt a little awkward having strangers around when it would normally be just a few of us taking care of the animals. Eventually though, being followed around by the crew and cameras felt so natural that I started to forget how life was without them. Every intimate moment, whether sad, happy, or scary, became a moment I wanted to share and felt privileged to be able to do so. We welcomed the film crew as members of the KSTR family, and I truly felt invested in the final product of the show. I always felt like this was a project we were creating together and that it was a fabulous way to let the world know what we are doing here in our corner of the rainforest in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
There is no “average day” at KSTR and taking care of rescued wildlife, especially orphans, is a 24 hour commitment. My life revolves around what the animals need and most days are filled with feeding and exercising babies, gathering wild foods, observations, medical exams, instructing volunteers and of course rescues and releases. The opportunity to share my passion with the world is rare and precious, and having the chance to invite a diverse audience to ride the same emotional roller coaster that I live on a daily basis is something I will always cherish. I just hope that this series provides the audience with a new perspective on wildlife rescue. It is my goal that we portray these animals not just as cute and cuddly creatures that exist solely for us to have and to hold, but instead that they are amazing creatures with wonderful stories of their own and that they all deserve another chance to be wild.
Ellie Harrison and Max Hug Williams to present Nature’s Miracle Orphans for BBC One
Filmed in Costa Rica and Australia, the series follows the teams and individuals who devote their lives to caring for young orphaned wildlife, teaching them the basic survival skills they need before they can be released back into the wild.
Wildlife cameraman Max Hug Williams visits Kids Saving the Rainforest in Costa Rica to meet the carers of a three-toed sloth named Newbie, who is battling a life-threatening illness. Max is also introduced to two-toed, two-day-old sloth Tiny, who is in need of constant care and attention, and anteater Al, who must learn to tackle aggressive biting ants if he is going to survive in the wild.
At Cape Otway Conservation Centre in Australia Ellie meets a tiny koala called Danny, who was found abandoned at the roadside after his mother was killed and ran up the leg of the motorist who stopped to rescue him. She’ll also visit Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter on the outskirts of Melbourne, where she’ll meet baby wallaby Neil and the carers working around the clock to teach the skills he’ll need for a life in the wild.
Max says: “Through the dedication of the amazing carers I met in Costa Rica, the animals that have had the hardest start in life are given the second chance they deserve. These incredible people have given up everything to nurture and care for these orphans 24/7 and having seen what they go through, I have to say, it must be one of the toughest jobs in the world.”
Ellie says: “Few jobs require as much personal sacrifice for no pay as rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife. The carers I have spent time with in Australia are woken through the night, convert their homes to rescue centres and have their personal schedule determined by the needs of the animals. But the reward is clear: a second chance for the orphans who would never have otherwise survived and the return of the animals they have nurtured back to the wild.”
Executive Producer Lucinda Axelsson says: “All the animals featured in the series are handpicked for their plucky personalities and their will to survive. It’s almost impossible not have your heart melted when you see Danny the baby koala being weighed in a little glass jug, or little Neil the orphaned wallaby trying hard to find a friend to cuddle up with. These babies are trying to survive against formidable odds and every survival truly feels like a miracle.”
Nature’s Miracle Orphans was commissioned for the BBC by Tom McDonald, Acting Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History. The Executive Producer is Lucinda Axelsson and the series producer is Kate Broome, both for the BBC’s Natural History Unit.
All funds received through our site go to Kids Saving the Rainforest, a 501(c) 3 US non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the endangered mono titi monkey and Costa Rica’s Rainforest.
Sponsorship levels describe what your dollars will accomplish for funding each critical project or rescue and release or sanctuary care for that type of animal. These funds are used immediately for our ongoing programs and for helping the animals in our care. New short term projects are supported through specific project fundraisers which are listed at the bottom of our Razoo DONATE page. This includes options for you to create your own campaign for your group through Razoo. To Learn More about each program and project please go here:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 011-506-2-777-2592 in Costa Rica.
Our volunteer season has arrived early this year and to kick it off was Chela Crinnon’s group from the Fieldston School and True Nature Education who returns to KSTR every year with groups. Now our individuals are arriving now until Mid –August and we even have a few families volunteering and staying with us.
So, you want to be a volunteer and know what your day will be like here @ KSTR? Why do you have to pay to volunteer? Let’s get the money issue out of the way first. Kids Saving the Rainforest is solely operated on donations; therefore your donation (registration fee/volunteer fee) helps to feed and care for the animals of the sanctuary and covers the expense of food and housing for you. Your dedicated hard work is your volunteering for the amount of time that you are with us.
A volunteers’ day will almost always consist of 2 animal feedings a day, cleaning cages, behavioral observations, enrichments for the animals (toys or objects to keep them from getting bored) and even sometimes you may get the special chance to walk an anteater or even get to help out with the animals in our Rescue Center. Most volunteer will not get the chance to work with the Rescue Center/Clinic animals due to us wanting to limit their contact with people since once they are well, they will be returned to the rainforest. Although at times we get so many animals in the Rescue Center help is needed.
We also often have volunteer groups come in for the day and do a major cleaning and enriching of cages which is always fun to see what volunteers come up with that’s new and exciting for the animals. Getting to see an animal actually use something that you made is pretty rewarding and watching them try to figure what it is and what to do with it is even more fun!
Our volunteer program is growing more and more every day and saving animals lives and giving people an experience that they will treasure for a life time makes us happy and to continue this we will always need the support from you.
We accept day volunteers, 1/2 day volunteers and you can stay with us in either the volunteer center bunk rooms or a cottage for a minimum of 2 weeks. For more information please go to: http://www.volunteer4kstr.org/ or email the Volunteer Coordinator at: email@example.com
Other ways you can help Kids Saving the Rainforest is by donating or even taking a tour of our KSTR Wildlife Sanctuary. To find out more: please go to: www.kidssavingtherainforest.org