A Little Taste of Heaven: Tracking Diaries #8

A Little Taste of Heaven: Tracking Diaries #8

I’m standing amongst the wreckage of felled trees and bulldozed undergrowth, my boots crunching on dead vegetation, but I’m not looking down.

I’m looking up. I’ve heard from Sarah that Luna has a new baby, just days old, and I haven’t seen her yet.

I haven’t seen much of sloths lately, it feels like. Between my other duties over the holidays and a couple of Covid scares I’ve become a little too intimately familiar with the view from my desk, the exact number of dead pixels on my computer screen, and the utter indolence of my cats, who literally do nothing other than sleep and demand food.

It feels a bit disorienting to be out in the field again. The last time I was this deep in Luna’s territory, it had more trees and less gravel, before some jerk came and tried to pave the place over. I watched from the other side of my phone screen as SloCo came to the rescue and notified the appropriate authorities of that transgression, and cheered through my coughing fits as my the community saved the remaining trees from the heavy equipment and sweated through a blistering hot day to put up fence posts to keep the tourists’ cars from finishing what the bulldozers had started.

 

 

It was in the dead branches of some of her former trees that Sarah found Luna and her new baby, trying to crawl to a safe haven through the twisted roots and twigs and spiders. Sarah reported that Luna arrived in her new tree safely, and it is now my job to figure out what the heck tree that actually was.

 

 

Our tracking equipment is being even weirder than usual. According to our radio receiver, Luna has in fact boarded a raft and is bound for—a quick check of Google maps—Aruba. It’s possible that the jungle has rusted some secret but essential piece of electronics deep inside the receiver, or that I’ve forgotten how to track sloths, or maybe that the antenna is possessed by demons.

(Note so self, Google “how to do an exorcism” when I get home. Don’t tell my boss.)

I’m still fiddling with the equipment when I have one of those perfect sloth tracking moments: I just happen to look up at a movement out of the corner of my eye and catch a slow-moving silhouette on the side of the guarumo tree. Quick as a cat, I whip out my binoculars, and then fist punches the air as I spot a three-fingered female with an itty bitty little replica of herself clinging to her fur. Another minute confirms the radio collar on her neck—this is definitely Luna!

 

 

The receiver is still insisting that Luna is somewhere out on the Caribbean waves, so I turn it off and instead pull out my phone, snap a few pictures, and then settle in for a good look at her.

Baby sloths are cute on a level that maybe ought not to be legal. They almost don’t look real; they’re just arms and eyes and fuzzy cuddles incarnate, like the living manifestation of a hug.

By now a crowd has gathered around me to marvel at the sloths. Luna has settled onto the branch she was after and gone to sleep. Watching them, I have to smile. Luna’s territory will take a long time to regrow, but here in front of me is proof that new life, and new growth, is always possible. We have named the baby Celeste, which means “heavenly”. It is also the Spanish word for the color of a clear sky in the daytime.

If you want a little taste of heaven, sometimes all you have to do is look up.

-Ames Reeder

The community of Puerto Viejo came together to stop habitat loss

The community of Puerto Viejo came together to stop habitat loss

Over the last few weekends of December 2021, we and our sloth guardians in Puerto Viejo witnessed deforestation occurring in the Maritime-Terrestrial Zone (MTZ) of the South Caribbean – specifically between Selina Hostel and the Cocles viewpoint.

This spot may sound familiar, as it is the home of one of our Urban Sloths Luna and her big baby Sol. The MTZ is a 200m strip of public land along the coastline that is strictly regulated by the government; building, exploiting flora and fauna (which is what was occurring here), entrances from the road, etc, is only possible with the correct permits, which are very difficult to obtain. 

 

baby sloth luna sol

 

  • Read More: The Urban Sloth Project

 

This destruction began slowly on Saturday 11th December 2021 which rang alarm bells; as we all know, most government employees do not work on the weekends. There was no official government body to oversee the ‘pruning’ of low growing vegetation and undergrowth, as well as the felling of some healthy trees.

 

deforestation

 

We thought that was the end of it, as the undergrowth is cut back periodically for security purposes along the beach path. 

The situation becomes worse

However, on Saturday 18th December 2021, the South Caribbean community awoke to a greatly concerning scene. The destruction had intensified, now with more chainsaws to cut more healthy trees and driven hydraulic machinery to level the ground and fill it with gravel. 

 

deforestation

 

The community came together in outrage, including many influential members of the community, and reported these works to the authorities, specifically to the Public Force and SINAC. Hours later, SINAC responded, went to the site, and put a stop to the work when they found flagrant dismissal of MTZ regulations. 

 

 

A formal report was drawn up and sent to the Bribrí Prosecutor’s Office for alleged violations of various environmental and land-use legislation in Costa Rica.

These actions caused a serious environmental impact in that area, which is considered a Natural Heritage of the State and part of the MTZ.

 

deforestation

A gloomy picture

On 20th December 2021, SloCo staff visited the site to assess the extent of the damage. We found 15 sloths of both families crammed into the few remaining trees, all demonstrating abnormal behaviors. 

 

 

The sloths were very active. Multiple sloths were coming to the ground to fruitlessly search for another appropriate tree and attempting to cross the busy road because all tree connections were lost. 

 

A SINAC officer helping one of the sloths

 

Sloths are creatures of habit and these guys had just had their entire home destroyed – they were in great distress. We spotted Luna among them, sharing a guarumo tree with other sloths.

 

Luna
En esta imagen se puede aprecira sutilmente la antena del collar de Luna.

Development without destruction

We understand that in some cases certain types of public works may be necessary; however, all these must be carried out in strict adherence to the law, having carried out the associated environmental impact studies, and above all with an entire and great understanding of the ecosystem being interfered with.

In the last two years, we have seen a huge increase in construction in the South Caribbean, which is rapidly eliminating the coastal and inland ecosystems of Talamanca.

Unfortunately, the lack of intelligent planning and environmental awareness results in excessive systemic pressure on flora and fauna. These species will sadly pay the ultimate price for human intervention and destruction.