Sloth Diaries: A day of first and miracle births by KSTR Wildlife Manager Sam Trull

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…
                                          csection pic 1Momma 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.
ultrasound mamma sloth
Baby had a heartbeat!
xray mamma sloth
Xray showed that baby was breeched.
csection pic 2 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.
csection pic 3 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.
csection pic 4     Dr Yesse located the uterus easily and began to extract the baby.
csection pic 5    Baby was completely out and already trying to breathe!
csection pic 6Doctors work quickly to try and remove any fetal fluids restricting the baby’s airway.
csection pic 7     Working quickly to get baby clean and warm.
csection pic 8 Removing intrauterine tissues from between her claws.
csection pic 9Baby exploring her new world.
csection pic 10Mom receiving oxygen after the operation.
Me holding baby after birth
 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)
Baby 2 days later                                                                                                     Baby two days later
mom and baby two days later    Mom and baby snuggle three days after operation.
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.
Please visit us here to find out how you can help:  www.theslothinstitutecostarica.org and www.kidssavingtherainforest.org 
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Thankful for your support!

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM KSTR!

The holiday season is fast approaching us and it’s now time to be thankful for what you have but also give from the heart to those in need. Here at KSTR, we solely run on the donations from YOU and we are forever grateful for every single one of you that have helped us over the years. We’ve grown so much and we will always need your support in helping to feed our animals.
Speaking of the animals,much thanks to past volunteer Martie Stothoff, who created a Thanksgiving Feast last year for the animals that we’ll continue to use for years to come. Check it out below!

                                      Thanksgiving Day ~ 4 PM

Did you know that making a holiday special for animals in captivity is a very important part of enrichment in their lives and that is crucial to their mental health?

“Turkey” – They will get chicken but they will think it is Turkey! (Turkey is $8 a kilo here) The little monkeys will get it cut up, the big monkeys can get legs and hunks and stuff.
“Gravy” – Take the chicken broth and veggie broth and mix together. This is the “turkey stock.”
“Beans” – Cooked green beans!
“Stuffing” – We will make a bread stuffing with cooked celery, eggs and chicken broth for flavor.
“Mashed Potatoes” – Cooked potatoes and make their normal potato cubes (they won’t eat it mashed). Can always add gravy.
“Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows” – Or use yams. Don’t mash it because they won’t eat it, just keep it cubed.  They will love this! We can put it in round containers to make it look like their pie.

Sounds good right?

Without your donations , KSTR would not be able to survive!  Please donate or maybe even donate in someone’s name as a holiday gift: http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org/makeadonation.php.htm

 Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us!

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Photos by Primatography/Sam Trull

Check out what our Gerente Pia Martin reported about the Rescue Center/Sanctuary!

JULY 29-31, 2013 REPORT – KSTR RESCUE CENTER
By Gerente Pia Martin

New animals

• 2013-07-056. ARMADILLO. This juvenile male was attacked by a dog, who probably fractured the spine. It had severe deep wound in the lumbar area and was completely paralitic. We had to put him down.

• 2013-07-057. VARIGATED SQUIRREL (SIMON). This baby squirrel was found on the ground. When it arrived it weighed 100grs and had eyes and ears still closed. Today he weighs 172 grams, has eyes wide open and ears. Two small teeth are starting to grow. He is having special milk 4 times a day and will start trying out veggies and fruits now.

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• 2013-07-058- 60. 3 BABY RACOONS. They are all between 1 and 2 months old. Are in quarantine period, getting dewormed, healing wound in the ear and an arm. Later, when they are used to the new special milk, they will be introduced to the other baby raccoons.
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Updates:

RELEASES: 

• JULY 5. TOLOMUCO. Santa Juana Private Reserve. Explored around and climbed a tree.

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• JULY 12. SILKY ANTEATER. Primary Rainforest Backside of property, Naranjito. Very fast, went up a series of thing vines and disappeared into the canopy.

• JULY 19. TITI MONKEY. Released in La Foresta, La Managua, Quepos by himself since he is an adult male. He can recognize the area and search for his troop.

• JULY 26. WHITE FACE MONKEY. Released with her troop in Los Altos, Manuel Antonio, Quepos. The troop was very eager to see her again.

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CLINIC:

• Raccoons. With the new milk, they are growing fast and gaining weight. They are starting to explore and walk around, trying veggies, fruits, and egg.

• Parakeets. Were moved all together to a new huge enclosure (No.5), are starting to become a flock, are learning to not only fly but also to walk; are learning to eat the right diet and do exercise.

• Wild Parrot. Will be transfer to another rescue center. She has an injured wing and probably a foreign body. We cannot diagnose without an xray and she might need orthopedic surgery.

• Porcupine Ethel. Her wounds are so much better! Right now we are waiting for her scabs to fall and she needs to gain weight. Soon she will be transferred from the clinic to a rehab enclosure.

• Shrek and Annie are doing great with the medicines and they are maintaining a good weight in the 600grs. They have learned to take medication in yogurt, which they love.

• Sloths, anteater, and titi monkey babies are all gaining weight and growing.

• Harriet, the big female mom marmoset, is sick. She has lost weight, is weak and not acting as herself. We have her in the clinic, draw blood and are waiting for the results.

• DIED:

• BABY RACCOON. The wrong milk caused malnutrition and he also aspirated due to his hungriness.

• Parakeet. During the first days of the introduction period forming the new flock, the parakeets were observed during the day for any fighting. The fight occurred at night or dawn. This parakeet was found dead.

WHITE FACE MONKEY CAGE! A lot of work was done to this enclosure. First, a big 3m long x 2 m wide x 2 m high shift cage was built and enriched. The monkeys are coming into the shift cage, therefore staff and volunteers can now enter SAFELY the big enclosure. The cage is now clean on the inside. Staff has also fixed all the holes and possible holes. A tower made of metal been built to make enriching in this huge enclosure easier (it’s over 7 meters high, so ladders were not working). Although more work is needed, a great improvement was achieved! Way to go!!

SPIDER MONKEY CAGE! 25 volunteers plus Staff helped tear down all the rotten logs in the spider monkey cage, clean, put in gravel and do new enrichment. Its looking great with new bridges, swings, ropes, branches, tires, etc. Welcome all to go check it out. We still want some towers as before, but this, we understand, will take time from Rolando.

OPERANT CONDITIONING

Two weeks ago, Sam as the leader and with staff like Dani, Oseas, Vernita, and Barb, and volunteers; the operant conditioning program started. The first animals been trained are the Whiteface monkeys, Spider monkeys, Kinky, and the Tamarins. The first steps are to teach the animals to associate the clicker sound with a positive reinforecement (a treat). The trainer will click once the animal does what the trainer wants. So to begin, it may stand in the appropriate place. Later it can be move into the shift cage, let me close the shift

cage, etc. Specifically, with the white face we are working on teaching them to come (the 3) into the shift cage and be calm enough to close it and continue been calm. The spiders are also learning the same thing. With the tamarins, since they have been sick and their weight has been an issue the objective is to teach them to stand voluntarily on the scale, therefore we don’t have to catch them. This requires a lot of dedication, patience and it has to be constant.

MULTISPECIES CAGE. Had to be put on hold for a bit because of the other urgent repairs needed. Now, they started building the first shift cage for the titi monkeys.

TRAILS.

-The trail in front of enclosures 1 through 9 has been relayered with gravel. No more mud while doing tours or walking.

-A metal handle has been placed from enclosure 1 to multispecies to help staff walk down safely

-A metal short fence was also built in front of the whiteface enclosure since the bamboo one rotted. This looks much better and more official.

News on Staff

Radios were bought and almost everyone has one now (Vernita, Sam, Dani, Barb, Oseas, Ezequiel, 1 volunteer). A protocol was created to use it. Therefore communications inside the finca, rescue center and hotel are much better now.

Seeking to get a better schedule established to be able to all work together and be more efficient.

Dani is working on a way to Instruct volunteers better how to prepare diets, with measurements, labeled bowls per enclosure, and instructions on a white board.

Sam will start pasteurizing the goats milk bought to decrease the risk of transmission of diseases to the baby sloths and others taking this milk. Need to talk to neighbors and give sanitary recommendations on how to milk the animals.

Everett, in charge of the nursery, will start planting hibiscus and other plants for the animals at the rescue center.

Volunteers:

Kerstin- teacher and common volunteer, stayed almost a month

Michelle- Mother volunteered for 1 week and donated funds and supplies to KSTR

Kensey- vet student and rehabber, stayed a month

Andres & Wendy- biology students from Perez Zeledon

Joshua ‘s True Nature Education – 22 volunteers and 3 guides. One day work. Extreme Makeover Spider Monkey Edition.

Things needed-built-repaired.

Two big priorities: continue with the multispecies cage (shift cage, feeders, enrichment) and finish the enrichments in the whiteface monkey cage. Enrichment should be done as a team with most of the staff since these enclosures are so big.

Small things: in the spider monkey cage a lock is needed so that the animals can not open the window. Also a second lock in the outside door, so they don’t open and escape.

BEAUTIFYING/ SNAKE PROOFING. Cleaning up the place from old logs, construction material, old palm leaves, etc because this does not only looks messy but it’s a great place for snakes to hide, including fer-de-lance. The cleaning has begun with help of volunteers but some parts need to be done by staff because its dangerous and should be done extra carefully.

Several trails still need gravel and big rocks on the side glued with cement.

Next visit Aug 14-15

 

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.

KSTR is launching a new project………… GPS Collar Program

 

We have a new and exciting project that we are working on and Kids Saving the Rainforest needs your support. One of our main missions at KSTR is to rehabilitate and release animals back to the wild.  Sometimes these are adult animals who have been electrocuted, hit by a car, attacked by dogs etc.  Sometimes these are orphaned baby animals that are hand raised by us and then trained to be able to live in the wild.  One of the most important aspects of a release is monitoring the animals AFTER the release has occurred in order to really know if they are going to be ok out in the wild.  As you can imagine, it is particularly important to monitor hand-raised animals as they have not been trained by their real mothers!

We would like to start a new post-release monitoring program at KSTR using GPS collars.  GPS collars are collars that use GPS technology in order to track where an animal is going throughout the day.  These collars are so specific that it can tell us where the animal is located down to the exact tree!  They also have the ability to tell us if the animal is active or resting.  This information would allow us to know where the animal is located, how far they are traveling throughout the day, how active they are, where they are going and for how long etc.  All information that would be invaluable in assessing their progress in learning how to live in the wild!  Even better is that the GPS collars can be re-used for future animals and they can be programmed to drop off after a certain amount of time (say 6 months) so that the animal doesn’t have to be re-caught in order to get the collar back.  Basically, these collars are amazing and they would really help us save animals and get them back into the wild in a responsible and scientific manner.  Unfortunately because the collars are so amazing they are also relatively expensive and to get started with the GPS collar program we need $6,000.  Donations are needed to continue using the GPS collar for future releases.

 

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The first animal that we are trying to put a GPS collar on is Al the anteater. He is so curious, so sweet, and really belongs to be free!  He came to the KSTR rescue center when he was about a month old after his mom was hit by a car and killed.  You can learn much more about Al and our other animals that need GPS collars by going to: www.kidssavingtherainforest.org

We plan to take this campaign to the internet and really get a fundraiser going to raise the money to start this ground breaking program.  If you think you would like to help get this started you would be supporting something that has never been done before in Costa Rica at a wildlife rescue center!  We will be making history!

Thank you for supporting KSTR!!!

 

The adopted animals of KSTR

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Kermit the sloth

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Al the Anteater

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Buster Posey the Goat

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Bonnie and Clyde the titi monkeys

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Rosie aka Pelota the Sloth

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Squawker the red lored parrot

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Fredericka the porcupine

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Harley the titi monkey

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Fly Girl aka Charlotte

 

Unfortunately we get animals all of the time that need rehabilitation before they can be released back into the wild.

Please go to: http://kidssavingtherainforest.org/donationsadoptions/ and find out how you can help too by adopting.