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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What a year!!! What’s to come in 2014?

Wow, as I sit here and review our holiday newsletter from last year, it is absolutely amazing of the progress and changes KSTR has been through.

Since moving the rescue center to BBI in Mar 2013, we’ve had several animals come and go. Some have survived and been released back into the rainforest and some are still here growing and gaining strength for releases in the future. Unfortunately, some have also passed away but I assure you that their time here was pleasurable.

Our Vet tech Sam Trull has learned so much on her own, from our Gerente Vet Pia Martin and even from other animal caretakers in other countries. Sam’s knowledge has strengthened incredibly and we are so proud of her and that she’s on our KSTR team.

Pia Martin has and will always be an integral part of caring for the animals during the days she visits us to do check-ups. We continue to support and learn from her. Her monthly wildlife report keeps us and our supporters up to date on the statuses of the rescue center and sanctuary.

The multi species enclosure is completed!! Currently we have 8 titi monkeys and a porcupine living in it. We are still in the process of learning about which animals can live there in harmony. We’ve enriched the enclosure with more trees, plants and blue rope for the animals. We’ve added an additional door to make it easier to feed them.

Vernita Gundy has taken to wearing several hats for our organization. She is not only the Volunteer Coordinator but is also the Administrative Assistant and the BBI Hostess. She steps in at any given time whenever she is needed!

 

Dani Dion who’s been part of our team for quite some time took on a huge responsibility to help out a man with a terminal illness who had several dogs that he asked us to help find homes for in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area. To date we’ve adopted out 7 of the dogs and still with the possibility to receive more in the coming months.

Dani also continues to help out with the animal feeding and anything else that goes on at the sanctuary. Her official title is Canine Captain, Monkey management & Wildlife caterer. Wow …that’s a fancy job! J

 

Hannah Lindstrom, our repeat volunteer who just can’t stay away from us extended her stay here as an intern to assist in the research, releasing and tracking of Al the anteater. She has come to love Al and although she will be sad to see him go, she will be very happy to see him return to where he belongs………back in the rainforest.

 

Oh and to top it all off, we’ve had an incredible volunteer season! But wait there’s more…….incredible donations from funding to supplies brought to us from people visiting Costa Rica and the local community helping us transport animals.

We are creating awareness, growing and making so many improvements here that we can’t even keep up! And you know what? We love every minute of it and we hope everyone will continue on this journey with us.

I really wish I could type every single person/group that has played a part in our growth but it’s impossible. There are two words that I can say though, “THANK YOU!”  We hope to do it all again in 2014!! Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!!

 

KSTR Crew and KSTR animals

 

 

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.

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. 

 

Kofi the electrocuted squirrel monkey is getting better

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What can I say about Kofi?  Kofi is the electrocuted squirrel monkey that I blogged about a month ago.  He has been through so much in just a month including a tail amputation, significant loss in the functionality of his right hand and the loss of his pinky finger.  Together, we have suffered through his electrical burns, shock, respiratory distress, sleepless nights spent checking his vitals, and many medications and treatments.  We just celebrated a month that Kofi has been at the KSTR wildlife rescue clinic and I am proud to say that he is doing better than ever!  His appetite is amazing and he’s climbing, jumping and moving around more like a normal monkey, which is impressive considering he has no tail and only one good hand!  His wounds are almost healed and tomorrow we will be putting him in an outside rehab cage for day time exercise.  He still has a long way to go, but this little monkey has such a will to live.  He has never given up…and we will never give up on him.

By Sam Trull