Canine Training To Prevent Attacks On Sloths and Wildlife

Canine Training To Prevent Attacks On Sloths and Wildlife

Certain wild animals, such as our sweet sloths, are slow-moving and would not be able to hide quickly. They are no match for a fast-running dog. It is not the dog’s fault that they have this instinct, but it is entirely up to us as pet owners to ensure that our dogs are trained well and learn not to attack wildlife.

 

dog aggressive attack

 

No matter where you live in the world, you share a habitat with local wildlife. Dogs and wild animals may run into each other from time to time, and the results can be severe. We have to take steps to protect both our dogs and wildlife from these encounters so that both dogs and wild animals can coexist peacefully.

 

Teach The Command “Wait”

The command “wait” is the command you will most want to focus on first. Your dog doesn’t have to hold a particular position, like when you use the phrase “stay” after the dog lays down so that it continues to stay in that position. But using the “wait” command is a way to make sure your dog pauses before going any further.

The animal hospital Bond Vet – Garden City, NY advises that you should start training this command when your dog is still a puppy, even though older dogs do have the ability to learn this.

The easiest way to help your pup understand this command is to have them wait before eating and before going outdoors. Praise and treats are highly recommended as well to help encourage good behavior when your dog waits.

 

dog training

 

In order to do this accordingly, you might consider enrolling your dog in socialization classes or dog training programs to make sure that your dog understands your commands and will obey you, no matter the situation.

As your dog progresses in learning the “wait” command, you can begin to take it outdoors and practice on more considerable challenges, such as using a toy, and eventually, another animal.

Some dogs may be easier to train than others, with some being more susceptible to learning commands quickly. However, once you have a solid “wait” command instilled within your pup, you can work to prevent it from chasing and confronting wildlife.

 

dog attack wildlife

Training With A Barrier

If you want to work training your dog specifically with other animals, it is a good idea to start with a barrier between your dog and the animal. Then you can work to find that optimal distance where your dog will not react when spotting the other animal and work more on the “wait” command.

If you find that your dog is too anxious and wants to move towards the animal, continue to work away from the animal and see when your dog can focus more on you.

Once you have established contact and your dog is obeying the command, reward it with a treat. If you find that the dog can’t concentrate on the treat, you need to continue working on your distancing.

You can use alternative rewards for treats here as well, such as a simple pet or a favorite toy, so that your dog understands it is receiving an award for exercising the correct behavior.

 

trainning

Training with a Toy

If you want to start with a toy, leave it in the middle of the room and step away. Then when you see your dog come upon it, use your command “wait.” Make sure you work with your dog and only reward it when it obeys the order on the first go.

You can experiment with intentionally leaving the toy unattended and wait to see if your dog goes towards it, not thinking that you are watching. When the dog starts to sneak towards the toy, use the command and see how quickly your dog reacts.

If you continue to do this often, your dog will understand that you are, in a sense, always watching. Enforcing this command when your dog can’t see you will also help catch your dog in a situation where things can escalate so that you can jump right to the command to get your dog to obey fast.

You should also know that it is essential not to let the dog play with this toy since it is only to be used for training purposes, and you want the illusion for your dog to treat it as if it was a real, live animal.

 

dog toy trainning

Dogs and Sloths

Sloths are particularly vulnerable wild animals to dog attacks since they are unable to jump or run. Costa Rica has a vast dog problem when it comes to wildlife attacks and the Oh My Dog! initiative has been initiated to work and stop dog attacks.

 

 

 

People like to let their dogs roam freely outside, particularly in Costa Rica and other parts of the South Caribbean, and it is all too common for a dog to attack other people, dogs, and wildlife.

Our job as owners is to keep a close eye on our pets and have commands like “wait” at the ready to keep them from chasing after other animals.

After all, your dog also has the susceptibility to end up with an injury from attacking wildlife, not just the wildlife becoming injured.

 

 

Dog Contact with Wildlife

Even if you have a dog with impeccable training, there is always the possibility that your dog will act on instinct first and not listen to your command. Minimizing your dog’s contact with any wildlife is part of ensuring that both your dog and other wildlife are safe.

Some steps you can take to keep your dog from encountering wildlife:

  • Don’t leave food outside that might bring about other animals.
  • Don’t hike with your dog far into the woods, especially right at dawn or sunset, when more wild animals are active.
  • If you want to hike and have your dog come with you, it is safer to hike in a group so that other wild animals will keep their distance.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when outdoors, especially if hiking or in a location where there might be wild animals.

dog running trainning

 

Your dog’s urge to chase will be a strong one, but if you take the time to practice and work closely and frequently with your dog, it can overcome its urge. If your dog learns to look to you for permission and commands, it strengthens your bond and prevents your dog from acting solely on its instinctive responses.

 

Nicole McCray-

 

Sloth-friendly tourism: How to help sloths while traveling

Sloth-friendly tourism: How to help sloths while traveling

When it comes to tourism, sloths often get the short end of the stick. Sloths are at the top of the list of animals sought after for wildlife selfies. Due to their “celebrity status” they are often crowded by adoring fans and in extreme cases used as photo props for tourists.

The good news is, there are ways to travel that can actually benefit local wildlife, including sloths! But how can you tell which businesses and hotels have actually made meaningful changes to help wildlife and which ones only appear to be “green”?

three-toed sloth with baby eating leaves
Brown-throated three-fingered sloth (Bradypus variegatus) and her less than one week old infant./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Introducing the Sloth Friendly Network

Thankfully, travelers coming to the South Caribbean of Costa Rica will no longer have to guess which businesses are friendly to wildlife, because we have been developing a program to address this exact issue!

The Sloth Friendly Network (SFN) is an accreditation program to help concerned travelers make informed choices by highlighting local businesses that have been doing their upmost to help wildlife in the area.

The central aim of the program is to endorse sloth friendly tourism and responsible business ownership by engaging travelers and visitors as partners in conservation.

The South Caribbean is known for its wild and beautiful beaches. It is not uncommon to be basking in the warm Caribbean Sea while you watch a sloth starting to stir after its afternoon nap, munching on beach almond trees.

Perhaps you hear a group of howler monkeys calling in the distance. These unique creatures sharing these wonderful and wild spaces with us, make the South Caribbean a truly enchanting place to be. A place whose biodiversity draws millions of tourists from all over the world each year.

two-toed sloth sleeping in beach almond tree
A two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) dozing in a beach almond tree./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

Developing a sloth-friendly tourism

One of our primary concerns in developing the program was whether tourists prefer organizations that support wildlife conservation. TripAdvisor conducted a study which revealed that 62% of the respondents consider the local environment when choosing a hotel, restaurant, and means of transportation and 69 percent of respondents plan to make even more eco-friendly choices on their next trip.

However, would they be willing to pay slightly more to an organization that protects wildlife? While there are some surveys that have shown that people support environmentally friendly practices such as plastic reduction, water conservation, and carbon neutral commitments, there isn’t much research on people’s opinions on wildlife conservation.

In order to determine the importance of wildlife conservation to tourists, we created a survey with two simple questions:

1. When traveling, would you be more willing to book with a hotel/tour guide that supports conservation of local wildlife over other companies?

2. Would you be willing to spend more for a hotel/tour guide that supports conservation?

A third question on demographics was added to see if any meaningful patterns emerged: “What is your age range?”

Note: There was no significant connection between age and the respondent’s answer to either of the first two questions.

This survey indicates that there is a strong preference to support organizations that help protect local wildlife. Additionally, the responses indicate that the majority of people are willing to pay more.

The results of this survey are meaningful for those in the tourism industry as it suggests that by supporting the conservation of local wildlife, they could have a competitive advantage over other companies in the area.

Reaching out to local businesses

Armed with this new knowledge, we were able to make the case to local businesses that tourists truly care about wildlife conservation and are even willing to pay more to reduce the impact of their travel.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to start from scratch because we have had the privilege of working with many local hotels and businesses through our Connected Gardens program.

These organizations have supported our sloth conservation efforts by reconnecting habitat on their properties through Sloth Crossings and reforesting and helping to educate their clients by sharing our educational materials.

faith glamping
A sample of our educational materials shared to businesses certified by the Sloth Friendly Network such as Faith Glamping./Photo: Cecilia Pamich

Our first members of the Sloth Friendly Network!

We have had the honor of working with these wonderful individuals over the past couple of years and we are proud to officially recognize them as part of the Sloth Friendly Network. As our network grows and we continue to accredit local businesses and organizations in the area, we hope that this will be a useful resource for travelers who interested in wildlife-friendly tourism.

These photos are some of the highlights from our recent visits to drop off education materials (and the certificates of course!) to these Platinum members of the Sloth Friendly Network. Thank you so much for supporting sloth conservation and making it possible to coexist with wildlife in a mutually beneficial way!

Cariblue Beach and Jungle Resort

 

sloth-friendly tourism faith glamping costa rica
Faith Glamping Dome Costa Rica

 

sloth-friendly tourism Costa Rica Annanci Village
Annanci Village – Boutique Vacation & Retreat Accomodation

 

sloth-friendly tourism Costa Rica
Colina Secreta – Glamping and Villas

 

Stay tuned as we add more businesses! And if you ever have the chance to visit the South Caribbean of Costa Rica be sure to check out these awesome places!

 

 

-Jackie Lopez and Katra Laidlaw

How sloths and people benefit from a plastic-free future

How sloths and people benefit from a plastic-free future

You may have heard of or remember a time when milk was delivered in glass bottles to your doorstep. In the span of a lifetime (80 years), we have gone from reusing and repairing most of our possessions to one where disposable products are the norm.

plastic-free life
Milkman truck from the 1940s/Source: https://historydaily.org/vintage-photos-milkmen-throughout-history

 

plastic-free life
Our grandparents’ generation lived a -mostly- plastic-free life. Leading brands such as Coca-Cola are still reluctant to go plastic-free./ Photo: oldphotoguy.com

The origins of modern garbage

This shift occurred for a variety of reasons: a coalescing of forces that led to a boom in consumerism post WWII and a desire on the part of businesses to harness this sudden rise in consumption to maximize profit.

The strategy that they devised was an unobvious one. In a pivotal moment at a plastics industry conference in 1956, a speaker looked out on the crowd and said, “your future is in the garbage wagon.” Instead of creating products that would last, the speaker proposed that they needed to create products that were intended to be thrown away.

It was a brilliant tactic. If they could simply get people to throw things away, then they would come back to buy more.

People had to be taught to throw things away. There were a variety of education campaigns at the time explaining to consumers how to throw things away and manage their garbage.

Learn more about the social and political history of garbage in the U.S./Source of image: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vintage-ads-plastic_n_5cdb1768e4b01e9bd3540ffa

 

How We Created a Throwaway Society

The unknown future of plastics

Although plastics in the ocean break down much faster than we expected , no one is sure how long plastic will persist in our ecosystems, due to their tendency to break up into smaller pieces.

The study of plastics and their effect on the environment has largely been focused on marine ecosystems (due to the visibility of plastic in the ocean and its dramatic implications for marine and human life). Only as recently as 2012 have we begun to evaluate the effect of plastics on soil and plants.

plastic-free oceans
As plastic breaks down into smaller pieces, they are eaten by marine life, entering the food chain and threatening the health of marine animals and humans alike./Infographic: WWF

Our understanding is still a theoretical one. As plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces, the likelihood that they can leach harmful chemicals into the environment increases.

Phytoremediation is the deliberate use of specific plant species to remove, stabilize or break down contaminants in the soil. Given that plants have the ability to absorb harmful compounds in the soil, such as arsenic, it likely that they also have the capacity to absorb nanoplastics in the soil.

A recent review of research on the effect of plastics on terrestrial ecosystems concluded that, “At present, we know next to nothing about the effects of this factor of global change on plants.

An overview of pollutants and their potential for phytoremediation/ Source: Kate Kennan and Niall Kirkwood’s book PHYTO: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design

 

Eliminating plastic safeguards the health of ecosystems and humans alike

Among the harmful chemicals that plastics are known to release are endocrine disruptors, a class of chemicals which mimic our human hormones, such as estrogen, resulting in a variety of health consequences for humans and other animals. As plastics break down in the ocean, they also release a variety of chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) which threaten the lives of marine animals and the people that eat them. Unfortunately, even low doses of these chemicals can cause adverse health effects, such as cancer.

Banning single-use plastics: A case study in Kenya

In addition to the changes that can be made on the scale of the consumer, many cities and countries have banned the use of single-use plastic. Notably, in 2017, the entire country of Kenya banned single-use plastic bags. Prior to the ban waterways clogged with plastic would often lead to floods. Since the ban of plastic bags, there has been a notable reduction in the amount of plastic in the streets and common areas that once had plastic waste piled as high as a person.

plastic-free cow
In urban areas in Kenya as much as 50% of cows had plastic bags in their stomachs/Photo: BBC

How sloths benefit from a plastic-free future

It is likely that sloths benefit from less plastic pollution in their environment. However, plastics pose the greatest threat to sloths and humans alike by generating profits for the fossil fuel industry and thus fueling our climate crisis. Plastics are derived from fossil fuels, such as crude oil. As our consumption of plastic rises, it is quickly becoming the primary driver of oil demand globally.

Sloths have survived on earth for almost 64 million years. Their winning strategies: moving slowly and saving energy. In order to save energy, they have lost the ability to regulate their body temperature. Their internal body temperature depends on the environment and can change by 10 ◦C over the course of a day. 

Sloths have two layers of fur that help them to maintain their body temperature. / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

If it becomes too cold for sloths, the essential microbes in their gut can die and they can starve to death on a full stomach. Curiously, when temperatures become too high, the metabolism of sloths begins to decrease.

Sloths are particularly vulnerable to the increased variation in temperatures in tropical countries due to climate change. Because they lack the ability to regulate their internal body temperatures, they heavily depend upon the temperature of the environment.

Reducing our plastic consumption individually and collectively reduces our exposure to harmful chemicals while combating climate change. Moreover, reducing our consumption of plastic helps to safeguard the future of the vulnerable: sloths and people alike.

plastic
Sloths and other types of wildlife appreciate a plastic-free future! / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

A plastic free-future

It may be disheartening to realize that the immense amount of plastic pollution that we and our ecosystems face today stemmed from a deliberate plan to maximize profits.

However, if we learned how to throw things away, we can learn how to reuse them again.

Eliminating plastic from your life may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, we don’t have to start from scratch. Organizations such as Plastic Freedom, with their line of plastic-free products, are dedicated to bringing about a future without plastic.

They offer plastic-free alternatives ranging from toothpaste to dental floss to razors. There is a good chance that the item you are looking for comes in a refillable version free from plastic.

Moreover, for every order they receive, they plant a tree somewhere in the world. These trees help to restore habitat and replenish the natural resources that we depend upon.

Plastic-free alternatives prevent exposure to health-threatening chemicals while reducing your ecological footprint. Even in the context of our global pandemic, fabric masks can be safely used as an alternative to disposable ones.

plastic-free shop
Some big brand shops have begun taking steps to strip their shelves of plastic wrapping. / Photo: phys.org

What ideas do you have to reduce your use of plastics in your life? Every small action counts!

Katra Laidlaw

The Real Cost of a Cheap Pineapple from Costa Rica

The Real Cost of a Cheap Pineapple from Costa Rica

In stores and supermarkets in North America and Europe, you can buy a pineapple for just a couple of dollars. But what is the real cost behind that cheap price? 

Today we commemorate sustainable gastronomy day by explaining how this popular and delicious fruit is impacting the lives of people, sloths, and the rainforest.

Read more: Eating green to save sloths: why your diet matters

Pineapple: Del Monte GmbH - FRUIT LOGISTICA - Producto

 

Costa Rica exports more pineapples worldwide than any other country. Over 40% of the total exported pineapples come from Costa Rica, a value worth US$ 981 million. Pineapple production in Costa Rica has been criticized for years following public reports of public health problems linked to the contamination of soil and water by chemical substances used on farms.

Pineapple monocultures are causing serious negative impacts on the environment and on local communities. Even though small and independent farmers exist, the big transnational companies such as Dole or Del Monte maintain all of the power. They set the price to pay to small farmers, endorsing the already existing inequalities in some of the low-income areas of the countries.

 

Pineapples affect sloth populations

In Costa Rica, rescue centers and sanctuaries are receiving a high number of baby sloths with genetic abnormalities.  Most of them show similar deformities: missing or extra fingers/toes, partial or full albinism, misshapen limbs, or malformed ears. Most of these orphaned sloths don’t survive more than a few months. Some of them might reach adulthood but they won’t ever be able to be reintroduced into the wild.

 

baby sloth with deformity
An orphaned baby two-fingered sloth that was born with just one finger! 

The cause of these abnormalities is likely multifaceted, but two major factors stand out: habitat fragmentation and pesticides. All of the sloths displaying genetic abnormalities are found in areas with high levels of agriculture and rainforest disturbance. Sloths are not the only species to be affected by these problems.

In recent years, reports of mantled howler monkeys with yellow patches in their fur have increased. This is alarming scientists who believe that the monkeys are consuming too much sulfur from pesticides on the leaves they feed on. Most of these animals live in areas close to pineapple and banana plantations, where the pesticides contaminate the entire ecosystem. Both howler monkeys and sloths are folivorous, so they are probably consuming pesticides directly from the leaves they eat.

Did you know that Costa Rica uses more pesticides (per capita) than any other country in the world? On average Costa Rica uses 18.2 kilograms of pesticides per hectare of cropland. In comparison, a country like the United States uses close to 2.5 kilograms per hectare of cultivated land.

howler monkey yellow pesticides pineapple
Strange yellow patches are starting to appear on howler monkeys in Costa Rica/Photo: Ismael Galvan

 

To properly understand  the cause behind the sloth deformities we launched a major study into the genetic health of wild sloth populations in 2016, taking data and hair samples from 100 wild-born sloths. By identifying the cause of the genetic abnormalities, we can develop the correct conservation strategies required to mitigate the problem. The results of this study will be published in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for the update!

Read More: Sloth deformities: a genetic study

Unethical labor conditions

The Rainforest Alliance, a scheme that provides certification to the pineapple producers of Costa Rica, is facing allegations of the illegal use of pesticides and labor exploitation of undocumented immigrants.

Rainforest Alliance says its certified plantations must adhere to certification rules, including “no mistreatment of workers”, and they are required to comply with strict audits and inspections.

The biggest problem is that the inspectors usually only have access to workers and facilities that are prepared by the pineapple plantations. The managers of the plantations often know in advance when the next inspections are coming, and the workers are interviewed in front of their bosses so they are not allowed to tell the truth about the conditions in the plantations.

 

pineapple workers costa rica
A lot of workers on pineapple plantations are unregistered and undocumented. /Photo: Amelia Rueda press

Pesticides and pollution of pineapples

The use of pesticides is a well-known problem in Costa Rica. Studies conducted by the University of Costa Rica show the presence of Bromacil (a very dangerous pesticide) in rivers, wetlands and underground waters. Bromacil was banned in 2017, but there are reports of its illegal use nowadays.

El Milano in Siquirres is a community that has been forever damaged by the use of pesticides from neighboring pineapple plantations. In 2003 it was discovered that the primary source of drinking water for the entire community was heavily polluted with dangerous pesticides used in the farms.

 

costa rica pineapple pesticides
Use of pesticides in a pineapple plantation/ Photo: Katya Alvarado

 

It wasn’t until 2007 that the ministry of environment began to transport water to these communities with water-tank trucks. However, the people living there still have to use the polluted tap water whenever the water truck doesn’t arrive. This has led to several people being intoxicated and hospitalized due to pesticide consumption.

During the last 15 years the government of Costa Rica has had to invest 3 million dollars of tax-payer money to deliver clean water to El Milano. The real cost for the rest of these communities is still unknown.

 

pineapple pollution water
An official from Aguas y Alcantarillados collecting water for the residents of El MIlano. Photo: Semanario Universidad.

Concerning expansions

According to satellite images provided by MOCUPP, pineapple plantations occupied 57,000 hectares of land in Costa Rica in 2016. However, the latest government report in 2019 indicates an alarming 300% increase over 3 years. 3,824 hectares of new pineapple plantations are invading protected areas, and 16,386 hectares are found in wetlands.

 

pineapple expansion costa rica
Pineapple expansion in Costa Rica. Source: SNIT

 

Read more: Palm oil and sloths: How can you help?

Not everything is bad news

At the moment there are 88 active lawsuits against pineapple companies in Costa Rica, and there is growing hope for the future that the government can provide sustainable solutions for the people and communities affected.

In 2016, a new 500 hectare pineapple plantation was proposed which would have been located less than five kilometres from the core of the important Térraba-Sierpe wetland ecosystem. Thankfully, the Ministry of Environment of Costa Rica (MINAE) suspended the project due to the imminent environmental impact. Even Carlos Alvarado (the president of Costa Rica) celebrated the decision on his social media:

 

Carlos Alvarado president of costa rica about pineapple project
“I welcome the decision of MINAE to suspend the environmental viability of a project for pineapple cultivation near the Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands. This reaffirms our commitment to the environment, to Protected Wildlife Areas, and to the protection of archaeological heritage.”

 

Several organizations are also working hard to instigate change. The University of Costa Rica has spoken about the negative impacts of this agro-industry and they launched a call to action for politicians, academics, scientists and pineapple companies themselves to change the situation.

The university is also conducting scientific research and developing solutions to promote environmental-friendly farming practices. They also offer support to local communities and provide them with the necessary tools to fight the expansion of pineapple monocultures in their areas.

 

What can we do to help

What can we do as consumers? We must understand that we have the power. By choosing carefully what kind of products we buy, we can have a positive impact. Think twice before buying that $3 pineapple. Is there an alternative locally grown fruit that you could buy instead? If you need to buy a pineapple, try to find an organic option from an independent farmer and avoid the big monoculture companies that are responsible for so much rainforest destruction. This might be a bit more expensive, but it is nothing compared to the price being paid by the people and wildlife of Costa Rica.

Buying locally grown and organic produce supports small independent farmers and minimizes the greenhouse emissions caused by transporting food around the world. Although it is difficult to avoid this in a globalized world, by choosing where and how we buy these items we can all make an impact.

Many supermarkets simply don’t stock the more ethically and organically produced food. This can usually be changed just by asking! If you let them know that there is a demand for those items then they will find a way to provide them for you. Spend just a little time today contacting your local supermarket, and the knock-on effects will be felt around the world.

A decrease in demand for cheap tropical fruits is the best way to prevent monoculture plantations from encroaching further into the remaining rainforest.

Pineapple - Wikipedia

 

Here at SloCo we are working hard to protect the sloth’s green rainforest home. Every month we grow thousands of ‘sloth-friendly’ trees in our SloCo forest nursery and we plant them in disturbed areas where habitat loss is threatening the survival of wild sloths. These trees not only help to fight climate change, but they also provide food and shelter for sloths!

 

-Cecilia Pamich,

Field Operations Manager

How are sloths affected by desertification and drought?

How are sloths affected by desertification and drought?

As a child, upon hearing that there is an increase in “desertification” worldwide I probably would have been overjoyed, imagining molten brownies and ice cream sundaes overflowing with chocolate syrup. But desertification (with one “s” instead of two), unfortunately, does not consist of a surplus of desserts. It is our present and our future, and a much saltier one at that.

Desertification is not the “expansion” of deserts but rather the degradation of land in dry-land ecosystems due to over-exploitation and climate change. Dry-lands compose 1/3 of the world’s landmass and support the lives of 40 percent of the world’s population (2000 million people).

In concrete terms, desertification is caused by overgrazing, deforestation, over-harvesting vegetation for household use (such as burning), and agricultural practices that push fragile, arid land beyond its capacity.

The key to sustainable agriculture is creating systems that coexist and complement the natural ecosystems already in place. Agricultural practices with an emphasis on maintaining biodiversity are key to increasing food security and resilience in the face of climate change.

https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/desert/download/p2.pdf

 

The link between dessert and desert

Although I may have misunderstood the true meaning of desertification as a child, that ice cream sundae I dreamed of, along with other animal products, are leading drivers of desertification.

One of the main causes of desertification is overgrazing. Overgrazing occurs when the plants in a pasture are not given enough time to recover and are therefore eaten down the roots, thus exposing the soil and making it more vulnerable to erosion and degradation.

80% of agricultural land is used for grazing and grain production to feed animals. In the Amazon rainforest, home to 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation rates.

Deforestation in Brazil
Deforestation in Brazil / https://storymaps.arcgis.com/

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

desertification and drought

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (June 17) is a campaign to highlight the causes of desertification and drought and bring individuals together in combating them. Every single person has the ability to make a positive difference. And together we can make some incredible changes.

 

The Great Green Wall

One of the most inspiring collective efforts to combat desertification is the creation of a Great Green Wall across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The Great Green Wall is an African-led response to the increase in desertification and drought in of the poorest and most vulnerable areas on the planet.

Trees have a remarkable ability to cool down the environment. Similar to how we expel moisture with each breath we take, trees draw up water from the ground and release it through their leaves in a process called transpiration.

Rainforests, such as the Amazon, even have the ability to generate their own rainfall. Fundamentally collaborative, trees, and life that they support provide a whole host of benefits to humans and wildlife alike.

“Once complete (8,000 km), the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.”

“The Great Green Wall is an urgent symbol of hope in the face of the greatest challenges faced by mankind this century from climate change to food security, migration, and resource-driven conflict. It is a compelling example of man and nature working together to create a unique legacy – a new world wonder for the next generation.”

When the tropics go dry

The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is known for its rain. However, ever here, we have been experiencing water shortages. Some regions of the country received 75% less rainfall than expected leading the Costa Rican government to declare a state of emergency on July 23, 2019.

NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) measures the temperature of plants when they run out of water, highlighting the stress of plants and detecting droughts

How are sloths affected by drought and desertification?

Drought, desertification, rising seas, and the expansion of industrial monoculture plantations are potent threats to sloths here in Costa Rica and in other places.

The tropical rainforest ecosystem where sloths live is drying up. The regular downpours that keep the rainforest lush and green have become irregular and short. Rivers that normally flow year-round have become seasonal streams, and temperatures are gradually increasing and becoming more extreme.

Tropical species are not prepared for these new, erratic weather patterns. They have evolved for millions of years in a relatively stable climatic environment and are therefore very vulnerable to even small changes in temperature and weather.

Sloths are unlike many other mammals because they are unable to regulate their own body temperature. This means that everything they do is dependent upon the weather. If it gets too cold outside, sloths can easily get hypothermia. If it gets too hot, they can overheat. Of particular concern right now in Costa Rica is the lack of rainfall. Sloths are being admitted into rescue centers all over South and Central America suffering from dehydration, and we are seeing a big increase in the number of sloths drinking from rivers.

 

costa rica deforestation rate

 

What can be done?

It can be easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed – but we must never underestimate the power that we all have in our day-to-day actions (check out this list of 7 simple ways that you can help sloths today from the comfort of your own home).

The Great Green Wall is a shining example of the change that can be accomplished on a local, regional and continental scale.

Coming together to enact change is necessary to redirect our resources in a way that will sustain many future generations of life on this planet. Starting a clothes exchange among your friends, reducing your consumption of animal products and lobbying your local politicians to redirect food subsidies to sustainable agriculture are a few powerful examples of ways that we can all help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Here at SloCo we are working hard to protect the sloth’s green rainforest home. Every month we grow thousands of ‘sloth-friendly’ trees in our SloCo forest nursery and we plant them in disturbed areas where habitat loss is threatening the survival of wild sloths. These trees not only help to fight climate change, but they also provide food and shelter for sloths!

Helping sloths and people, one tree at a time.

 

Katra Laidlaw

World Wildlife Day: why do we celebrate this day

World Wildlife Day

A Day to Celebrate!

World Wildlife Day is the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife. On the 3rd of March in 1973 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was born.

CITES is an international agreement between governments with the purpose of regulating the trade of species and preventing them from being over-exploited. Today approximately  5,800 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are protected by CITES – including two of the six species of sloth!

The 3rd of March is an opportunity to celebrate the amazing biodiversity that we share our planet with, and to raise awareness of the problems threatening the delicate balance that sustains all life on Earth.

 

world wildlife day
All species are dependent on each other for survival. Sloth hair is home to a whole ecosystem that is found nowhere else on earth. This includes several different species of fungi / algae, and a type of moth called the sloth moth!

Everyone is at risk

Today the biodiversity our planet is facing lots of dangers. The devastating impacts of climate change are not only affecting people: wild species also suffer from heatwaves, intensified storms, droughts and floods.

Last year the world was shocked by the intentional bush-fires that were started in Brazil to clear land for livestock. It is hard to calculate the sheer number of plants and animals that were lost in the Amazon Rainforest fires. Sloths were likely one of the most affected species in this disaster, however no one currently knows how badly the populations were affected. Sadly, this catastrophe was soon exceeded by the total ecosystem destruction that occurred with the Australian bush fires.

The recent and ongoing Coronavirus outbreak also highlights the dark side of the wildlife trade. Experts think that the virus jumped from animals to people at a wildlife market in China. In response the government have banned the buying, selling, and eating of wild animals in an effort to prevent zoonotic diseases from spreading. This is great news, but do we really need to wait for a viral epidemic before we act on these issues?

pangolin coronavirus
Pangolins might be the cause of the Coronavirus outbreak. They are also the most trafficked animals in the world.

 

Losing wildlife means losing opportunities to improve our lives

Today about 40% of modern medicines come from rainforest plants. That is an impressive statistic when we consider that only 5% of Amazon plant species have been studied for their potential medicinal benefits.

Even our beloved sloths may have closer links to our own health than we ever realised. Sloths carry a unique ecosystem in their fur: a colony of moths (called ‘sloth moths’) and several different species of green algae and fungi that provide wonderful camouflage for the sloth.

When studying fungi from sloth hair, researchers “found a broad range of activities of the fungi against bugs that cause malaria and Chagas disease, as well as against human breast cancer cells.Could sloths be carrying the cure to cancer in their fur? It is certainly possible! What other possible cures might be out there? Estimates suggest that the total number of fungi species in the world exceeds 5 million, yet fewer than 100,000 of these have been described.

How many other amazing opportunities for improving our health and social development are we missing due to the high rates of habitat and species loss?

 

world wildlife day sloth green algae fungi
Brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus) and his distinctive green coat.

Why is this important?

Last year it was declared that the rapid loss of biodiversity is just as catastrophic for humanity as climate change. One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction – with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.

The links between biodiversity and nature, and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries are undeniable. The richness of species and the interactions among all living creatures is what makes this an inhabitable planet. If we lose this richness, our own existence – not only as a civilization – but as a species, is at risk. Humans will become the last endangered species if we continue down this path.

 

Photo: ©FAO/Dino Martins
Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives. A lot of pollinators are under threat of disappearing / Photo: ©FAO/Dino Martins

 

It’s not too late, but we have to act now!

With the news full of apocalyptic stories of wildfires and species extinctions, it can be easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed – but please don’t ever underestimate the power that you have in your small day-to-day actions.

One person at a time, one day at a time, and one project at a time, we all have the ability to make a serious difference that will leave a lasting impact on the world.

What are you going to do today that will make the world a better place? You could leave the car at home, order the vegetarian option for dinner, turn off the water while you brush your teeth, or skip that extra coffee and use the money saved to plant a tree for sloths instead!

 

world wildlife day actions to help the enviroment

 

The time to take action is now!

#WWD2020

 

 

Working With Nature

Working With Nature

Natural rhythms

Many people are drawn to Costa Rica for its “Pura Vida” lifestyle (literally translating as ‘Pure Life’); a motto that reminds people to stop and enjoy the richness of life, to take the time to sit down and savor a cup of coffee over a late-afternoon conversation. This way of being is a welcome respite for many from the fast-paced world of cities, deadlines and digital work lives.

Sloths are masters of the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle.

Our world is driven by many rhythms and cycles, natural and otherwise; moderated by the exchange of gases, measured by the sequestration of carbon, and punctuated by the ping of notifications. In this age of information, it is often challenging enough to maintain a healthy personal rhythm let alone live in harmony with the pace of natural processes. Sloths remind us to slow down. But more importantly, they show us – having survived for millions of years on Earth – that there are many ways to live on this planet.

Don’t worry, don’t hurry. There are many benefits to slowing down and connecting with nature.

Taking a leaf out of the sloth’s book

Here at SloCo we have taken this to heart. While we have no intention of slowing down or reducing our efforts to conserve sloths in the wild, we aim to work in a way that draws strength from nature instead of working against it.
So what does this mean for us? It means using bicycles as our main form of transportation, composting our organic materials and using the rich soil to grow native trees. It means doing our very best to understand and respect our local ecosystem and appreciate how our environment filters our water, purifies our air, moderates the temperature, and provides us with a variety of local foods (including chocolate!) among many other things!

SloCo agronomist Pato uses his bike to transport young trees for planting.

Our greatest collective challenge of the 21st century is adapting our modern world so that it is more in tune with the ecological processes and connections upon which we all depend. By working and living in ways that align with and are adapted to the local environment, we include nature as part of the team and develop a personal stake in protecting it.

What are some of the services that your local ecosystem provides? If you were to give a gift to your local environment, what would it be?

Katra Laidlaw

7 ways you can help sloths today!

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

We have created a list of 7 simple things that you can do every day to help sloths – all from the comfort of your own home! One person at a time, one day at a time, and one project at a time, we all have the ability to make a serious difference that will leave a lasting impact on the world. Don’t ever underestimate the power that you have in your day-to-day actions! Here are some sloth-inspired ideas to get you started:

  • Choose your food carefully – The production and transport of food is very damaging to the environment, so eat locally grown food whenever possible!
  • Save your energy – turn off the lights, turn your computer off overnight, hang your clothes out to drydownload instead of using the drier, leave the car at home…. all of those little things that we do every day have a huge impact when we add them all up!
  • Go natural – say no to single use plastic! Did you know that every single piece of plastic ever created is still somewhere on our planet today… that adds up to the same weight as a billion elephants!
  • Talk to the children – educate children about the simple things they can do to reduce their impact. Empowering the next generation with the knowledge to make a difference will lead to positive outcomes for the planet!
  • Support the organisations who care – from your local business with eco friendly practices, to the conservation organisations that are globally working hard to protect nature. Do your research and donate to those organisations who will use your money to fund in-field conservation projects with documented (published!) results. If you aren’t in a position to donate, you could try to run annual fundraising events in your community, or simply spread the word about a particular cause! For birthdays and events try to buy gifts that give back, with proceeds going to support a non-profit working in conservation!

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Eating Green to Save Sloths: Why Your Diet Matters

Why your diet matters

Have you ever considered that what you choose to eat each day has a direct impact on the welfare and survival of sloths in the wild? By changing your diet, every single day you could save:

  • 30 sq. ft. of rainforest from being chopped down
  • 1,100 gallons of water
  • 45 lbs of grain
  • and 20 lbs of CO2

…just by changing the food that you eat!

It might come as a surprise that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction. That includes clearing land for both cattle grazing and to make space for the vast crop plantations for livestock feed. Furthermore, livestock and their by-products are accountable for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide – in comparison, the entire transport sector (including cars, airplanes, and boats) account for just 13%. We have all heard about the terrible effect that the palm oil industry is having on the Indonesian rainforest – but animal agriculture is shockingly responsible for 5 times the amount of deforestation when compared to palm oil (26 million rainforest acres: 136 million rainforest acres).

There is no question that the current levels of meat and dairy consumption all over the world are completely unsustainable. As a population, we simply cannot continue in the way that we are doing. But what is the solution? Are we all supposed to go completely vegan? And is that option sustainable in itself? I guess this is down to personal preference. We know that going vegan is very hard for a lot – if not most – people, and perhaps it isn’t even necessary. What if we all just make an effort to reduce the amount of meat that we eat on a weekly basis? Start off with ‘Meatless Mondays‘ and start to experiment with plant-based meals.  Why not start today with our sloth inspired salad – you can find all of the details below!

 

 

Sloth-inspired salad

Sloths are really the ultimate vegans, surviving on a natural diet of leaves, flowers, fruits and shoots in the wild! To celebrate our leaf-eating friends, we have teamed up with Argentinian cook Andres Pacheco to develop the worlds first salad inspired by the diet of sloths!

 

For this salad we sourced all ingredients from a local farmers market here in the South Caribbean region of Costa Rica. Obviously all of the products here have been grown locally and so you might not find the exact same versions in your local grocery store or garden. However, each ingredient is easily replaceable with a simple alternative that you should be able to find without too much trouble. You will need:

Main ingredients:

  • Leaves: lettuce, arugula, etc
  • Edible flowers
  • Avocado

Toppings: 

  • Cacao Nibs
  • Almonds
  • Cashews

Dressing:

  • Carrots
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil

#1. Leaves

letucce sloth diet

Sloths are ‘folivores’ which means that they survive on a diet of leaves in the wild. This is why leaves are the star of our sloth salad recipe! Butterhead, iceberg, loose-leaf, baby and romaine lettuce – there are a lot of different lettuce options! We chose a local variety of red and green-leaf with arugula, basil, Italian parsley, and cilantro.  You can add kale, spinach, endives, escarole – you can try as many combinations as you like!

#2. Edible flowers

sloth flowers

Sloths also love to eat flowers and buds, and so we can use these to add some sweetness and color to our salad! The buds that we used  are called ‘Loroco’ (they taste just like asparagus), Bungavilas and Hibiscus. Did you know that hibiscus flowers are often referred to as ‘sloth chocolate’ because sloths love to eat them so much? They also have loads of good health benefits so don’t hold back when adding these to your bowl! Lots of very common flowers that you can find in your garden are actually edible AND delicious (roses, violets, daisies….), just make sure you check each type before eating them!

#3. Avocado

avocado sloth

We all love avocado! This delicious, creamy tropical fruit tastes so good in sandwiches, smoothies (yes, you should try that too) and of course salads. We have to thank the extinct Giant Ground Sloths for the avocados in this recipe. The avocado is going to add some sweetness and a creamy consistency, especially if you choose more sour leaves like arugula.

#4. Cacao nibs

chocolate cacao sloths

We like chocolate… and sloths like chocolate too! Wild sloths are known to enjoy eating both the leaves and the pods from cacao trees. Cacao is also one of the best crops for maintaining the health of the ecosystem as it is a ‘shade grown’ crop. This means that it grows underneath the natural rainforest canopy and does not contribute to deforestation! For our sloth salad we chose to use raw cacao nibs as one of the toppings.

5- Almond and cashew nuts

almond sloths

One of the favourite trees of two-fingered sloths is the beach almond – they enjoy eating both the leaves and the almonds. They also like to use wild cashew trees in Costa Rica too! For this reason we have included both almond and cashew nuts as toppings for our sloth salad!

6 – Carrots

sloth carrot diet

Carrots do not grow in trees and so wild sloths do not eat these (of course). However, these root vegetables are widely enjoyed by sloths living in captivity all over the world – they are a unanimous favourite! We are using the carrots for our salad dressing. First, boil the carrots until soft. Once cold, use the blender to make a liquid sauce. Add salt, pepper and spice it up as you like!

The Final Sloth Salad Plate:

sloth salad

 

Sloths use a process of fermentation to digest the leaves inside their large, four-chambered stomachs, and so we recommend washing down your sloth salad with some sort of fermented beverage. Kombucha is a widely available favourite!

Bon Appetite!

Sloths and Palm Oil: how can you help?

The world is waking up to the palm oil crisis that has driven orangutans to the brink of extinction, but is boycotting palm oil really the answer? Unfortunately no, but that doesn’t mean that we are powerless.

Last week the UK supermarket chain Iceland shone the international spotlight on palm oil after its controversial Christmas TV advert was banned from British television. The advert, which depicts an orangutan hiding in a child’s bedroom after loggers destroyed his rainforest home, has now been watched over 30 million times online making it one of the most successful Christmas adverts ever created. Similar to the anti-plastic movement that is sweeping across the world, this advert has stimulated an uproar against the palm oil industry. While it has been overwhelmingly successful at raising awareness of a very important issue, fears are growing as increasing numbers of people are demanding a boycott on palm oil. This is dangerous.

POSCO-Daewoos-palm-oil-concession-in-Papua-Indonesia
Palm oil is used in approximately 50% of everything that we buy, ranging from food and shoes to cosmetics and cleaning products. It is everywhere and the demand is huge. Consequently, palm oil plantations are responsible for the majority of Malaysian and Indonesian deforestation, with a football pitch-sized area of forest being cleared every 25 seconds in Indonesia alone! However this is not just an issue affecting Asia. Palm oil plantations are also springing up in place of the sloths rainforest habitat in South and Central America, further adding to the ecosystem destruction occurring due to crops such as soy, bananas and animal agriculture.

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Boycotting palm oil, however, doesn’t mean that manufactures will simply remove oil from their products all together. It simply means that they will be forced to replace it with a different kind of vegetable oil. Unfortunately, palm oil is already the worlds most productive oil crop. All alternative oils such as soybean and rapeseed require up to 10 times more land to produce the same amount of product – increasing demand on these crops would be even worse. In addition, boycotting palm oil will drive the price down, consequently increasing the demand for use in biofuel and livestock feed, particularly in countries such as China and India.

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So what can we do?
Thankfully the answer applies to all aspects of consumerism, and will have benefits for species and habitats globally (including sloths!): sustainable shopping. Think carefully about the products that you buy because as the consumer, you have the power. Only choose products from manufacturers and retailers who use ingredients from sustainable, certified, legal and deforestation-free sources. They exist, you just have to know which ones to look for! We know this sounds like a lot of hard work – who has time to read every label and search online for every product that you want to buy? But the good news is you don’t have to! There is a wonderful (and free!) bar-code scanning app called Giki that will do all of the hard work for you. Just scan the product that you want to buy and it will tell you all of the information you could ever want to know about that product. Whether it’s local pollution, global climate change, conservation, animal welfare or health, it will give you everything that you need to make an informed decision! Thankfully, using this app will also help you to avoid fruit and produce that is contributing to the sloth deformity epidemic in Costa Rica by way of rampant pesticide usage and forest fragmentation. It’s a win for everybody!