Sloth Crossings Update: January-April

Sloth Crossings Update: January-April

Hello Sloth Crossings Community! In this update, we’ll be covering the highlights of the project from January through April. We’re proud to say that the project continues to expand to new levels and new areas!

January: The Month of Covid

In January approximately 90% of our team either tested positive for COVID or had to quarantine due to close contact with someone who had. It was a bit of a shock for this area, which up until now had seemed to skate by the pandemic in our happy little tropical bubble, isolated from the worst of it by our limited access to the outside world and healthy, fresh outdoor living.

February: Collaboration is Key

In February we finally started working with ICE (the Costa Rican electric company, Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) to coordinate the installation of bridges above the main road and secondary streets. Installation in these areas requires the powerlines to be deactivated until the bridge is safely anchored on either side of the line.

 

 

Since the electric grid in this area is less like a grid and more like a straight line, everyone downstream of this project has no electricity until it’s finished, which can take a few hours. So far we installed three sloth crossings over electrical lines in Playa Chiquita and five in Playa Negra–both of which are important neighborhoods with high levels of urbanization.

Problem Areas

Wildlife crossings help sloths and other animals avoid two of the three biggest sloth killers in the South Caribbean: dog attacks, and powerlines.

 

 

The survival rate for animals that have been electrocuted is very low, but insulating power lines requires a lot of time and funds, and as a public company ICE’s budget is limited. The government recognizes this problem and has already invested over $400,000 US in materials to insulate their power lines and transformers! However, this just gets the project started—more funds are needed to see it through to completion.

Since 2019 SloCo has provided over $10,000 to buy the raw materials to insulate power lines and transformers, and we expect to match this number again this year.

 

March: Record Day!

 

On March 16th the Bridges Team left the office early in the morning to go to a property in Cahuita, where the plan was to install three or four bridges and plant some trees. Not only did we achieve this, but we also set a new record! The team managed to install five bridges in a single day and planted 30 sloth-friendly trees at the same time! 

 

Launching the Camera Trap Project

SloCo achieved another big goal this year with the start of our new research program: the Camera Trap Project. Thanks to our Sloth Crossing Community we are very excited to begin research on the usage of our bridges. Special thanks to the Krueger Family who brought the cameras down to Costa Rica in their luggage and made this launch possible!

 

 

At the moment we have 13 camera traps covering over 150 bridges. This is an excellent start, but we have even more brides being used by even more animals, and we want pictures of all of them! In the meantime, we are extremely grateful that we are able to make a start with the ones we have. Keep an eye out for our upcoming fundraiser for more camera traps, all and any donations are very much appreciated!

 

camera trap crossing

 

The first law of the jungle is that The Jungle Eats All Things. The heat, humidity, and wildlife will make short work of many types of cameras, but our research has shown that the camera traps that work best in the Caribbean climate and circumstances are:

 

April: Sloth Crossing Team goes to the Pacific!

The Team just got back from a five-day excursion to Ojochal and Uvita on the South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. We installed eight bridges, including three in Marino Ballena National Park, one of the most ecologically important protected areas of the country.

 

SloCo Team with the Rangers of Marino Ballena National Park

 

It is great to be expanding the Sloth Crossing Project to more areas of the country! Special thanks to Oscar from the Reserva Playa Tortuga, Jonathan from SINAC of the National Park Marino Ballena, and Shannon & Micki of Ojochal who contacted us and helped so much with coordinating everything.

 

We visited this amazing school @lifeprojecteducation and met all the amazing children who go here. This school has bought the plot of land next door as there was so much deforestation and has started to reforest it. 

Expanding Our Borders

Speaking of taking the Sloth Crossing Project even further abroad, we have begun collaboration with an organization in Praia do Forte, in the NorthEast of Brazil, to fund the installation of wildlife bridges adjacent to Sapiranga Reserve.

 

maned sloth brazil

 

This is an important habitat for the endangered maned sloths and is the same area where we tagged eight sloths last year as part of a different scientific research project.

Sloths and Monkeys Using Bridges

Last but not least, here is some footage of sloths and monkeys using some of the Sloth Crossing Bridges these past few weeks!

  • Two-Fingered sloth using the Bridge SC-50

 

 

  • Howler Monkey using bridge SC-66

 

  • Howler monkey using the bridge installed in the Maritime Zone SC-93

 

  • Howler monkey on the bridge  SC-110 / SC-111 at Playa Chiquita

 

  • Two-fingered sloth using bridge SC-122 at Tasty Waves Cantina

 

 

  • Howler monkeys using a bridge over the main road ( SC-122 bis) by Tasty Waves Cantina

 

  • Three-fingered sloth using SC-058

 

  • Howler monkey with her baby spotted at Tortuguero, on SC-81

 

This map shows all of the places where we have installed Sloth Crossing wildlife bridges (blue) and planted trees through our reforestation efforts (green) since March 2019.

 

 

We hope you enjoyed this update, and stay tuned for the exciting next steps of this journey. Thank you so much for your incredible support of this project!

 

Pura Vida!

 

 

 

 

 

Tamara Avila

Sloth Crossings Project

Why did the wildlife cross the road?

Why did the wildlife cross the road?

To expand into new territories and look for mates or food. It isn’t hard to imagine why animals need to move around, but when you work in conservation, the more interesting question is: how?

There’s a road that runs through the jungles of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica. Until a few years ago, it had never been properly paved. When the work crews first came through to turn it into a paved road, with smooth pavement and yellow lines, those of us who live here knew it would have an impact on the local wildlife, but we had no idea how much. The New Road, as it’s now called, meant more cars coming through faster than ever, and, to further expedite the traffic, large trees on either side of the road were cut down.

 

Sloth road
Sloths on the ground look more like a baby trying to crawl. / Photo: Suzi Eszterhas

 

Habitat fragmentation has a huge impact on the species that live there. Just like us, they need to get from point A to point B, but unlike us, white-faced capuchins don’t have driver’s licenses (probably a good thing), turtles don’t know how to use crosswalks (probably a bad thing), and snakes don’t look like obstacles until it’s too late (definitely a bad thing).

The problem of habitat fragmentation and wildlife road mortality is not unique to Costa Rica, but is a worldwide issue. In Canada over 6,000 animals per year are recorded as roadkill. These deaths are tragic to the animals involved as well as the species they represent and the biodiversity they support.

Solutions from Canada

In Canada, The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is a leader in protecting natural areas and biodiversity across the country, but the lessons learned and proven strategies for integrating natural spaces with human development are applicable everywhere.

 

Turtle using the passage / Credits: Long Point Causeway

 

NCC has supported innovative projects such as the T5 Eco Passing over a major highway in Ontario, an ambitious grassy bridge that connects large restoration areas on either side of the highway, and the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project, a community-based revitalization of the causeway linking Long Point Peninsula and Lake Erie. The conservation community has come back with a very simple answer to the question:

How does wildlife cross the road?

Back in Costa Rica, the new road through Puerto Viejo has an average elevation of about 10 centimeters above sea level and frequently runs through the Maritime Zone, which is fewer than 50 meters from the coastline, making the “under” solution problematic. Water tables are so high most of the year that even shallow holes quickly flood.

Solutions from Costa Rica

Armed with durable lengths of green rope, a few courageous tree climbers, and a three-meter-long slingshot (yes, really), The Sloth Conservation Foundation’s (SloCo’s) and its Sloth Crossing Project team have installed over 130 bridges connecting giant jungle trees across high-traffic areas along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.

 

A single rope Sloth Crossing wildlife bridge
A single rope Sloth Crossing wildlife bridge

 

Sloths, monkeys, kinkajou, possums, tree frogs, and dozens of other animals are very happy to move from tree to tree without ever setting foot on the ground — or near the road. These simple bridges look like a tightrope of thick, green cable, and are installed 15 or more meters above the road. Large trucks can pass safely underneath, and the nimble canopy dwellers can climb along overhead.

The next stage

SloCo will soon be launching Phase 2 of the Sloth Crossing Project, which is to install cameras along the ropes to monitor how many and what kinds of wildlife the sloths share bridges with.

 

camera trap crossing

 

People and wildlife both need to get where they are going as safely as possible. The good news is that these requirements are not mutually exclusive! Reducing traffic collisions is in everybody’s best interest, and one thing proven by conservationists around the world is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. All it takes is an open mind and a little bit of imagination.

-Ames Reedder

In collaboration with NCC