Tales from the jungle | July 2022

Tales from the jungle | July 2022

 

Hello, sloth community! Can you believe we’re more than halfway through the year already? We’ve already started preparations for International Sloth Day this October (Thursday, October 20th! Put it on your calendar!), but before that, here’s the latest news from the field:

 

Kukula Kids Club Photo Success!

Last month Girls Who Click hosted a photography workshop with our environmental club, the Kukula Kids’ Club. 12 kids got their own camera, some lessons in basic photography, and some conservation coaching for a fun week of nature and pictures. Quite appropriately, we even had a visit from a wild sloth, which was so perfect we couldn’t have planned it!

 

Sloth Crossings Update:

We’re only 16 bridges away from our next milestone: bridge number 200! We’re so excited we decided to celebrate early with this amazing video by Cederholm Photography. Check out that three-fingered sloth using one of our bridges!

 

Opossums, kinkajous, spider monkeys… and sloths, oh my!

So many animals use our Sloth Crossings bridges! We currently have a total of 16 camera traps monitoring bridges in order to test their efficiency.

 

Spider Monkey (ateles geoffroyi) using bridge SC-081 in Tortuguero

 

If you would like to see more about the Sloth Crossings update, including more footage of wildlife using the bridges, here is our latest blog!

Detection dogs to count sloths

We are tremendously excited to begin our Scat Detection Dog Project this month! Since sloths are so hard to spot in the trees, we are going to teach a dog to find their poop instead, and use sloth toilets to tell us about sloth populations in specific areas. Nothing like this has ever been done before, but the results of the pioneering study will be extremely important.

 

 

Sloths have spent millions of years evolving to not be seen, so it’s very difficult to count them…until now. Thanks to the Future for Nature award received by Dr. Cliffe earlier this year, SloCo has been able to partner up with Working Dogs for Conservation to start training our newest team members: Dayko and Kesha!

 

 

There is still a long way to go with this ambitious project, but we are starting to make some progress. Learn more about how Dayko and Kesha will help us count sloths here.

Fails of the month:

Sick Days are never over (Part II): It’s either Dengue or Covid, and this month it was both. Half the team was out sick this July, and the office was frequently closed for quarantine, mosquitoes, or simply lack of staff. Get well soon, guys!

The Urban Sloth Project team was scattered to the four winds this month when senior members Amelia and Ames had to return to their home countries for a bit, leaving Haley, Dayber, and Fran to hold down the fort. Oh, and train up our newest sloth tracker, Jose. Hi Jose! Welcome to the jungle!

Haley from the Tracking Team hurt her ankle while sloth tracking at the end of July, just before we had to close HQ for Covid (again). This is what comes from wandering around the jungle while staring at treetops through binoculars-you can’t watch where you step! We are at least happy to report that she is recovering well.

In other lessons for watching where you step, new sloth tracker Jose was out looking for Croissant in Arse End Swamp and stepped on what he thought was solid ground near Poo Creek… and, well, was soon up to his knee in Poo Creek. Without a paddle, as they say. On the plus side, he did find Croissant. We appreciate your sacrifice, Jose!

-Sloth Team

Sloth Crossings Community update | July 2022

Sloth Crossings Community update | July 2022

Hello Sloth Crossings Community!

We’ve got a lot of exciting news for you this time, involving science, papers, our recent research project, and of course some amazing footage of wildlife using our bridges!

We’re also very excited to announce that we are getting really close to our 200th Sloth Crossing– Only 16 more bridges to go! Stay tuned, we’re almost there!

 

Where’s my bridge?

We’ve got a map for that! Use the code or coordinates we provided to check it out and see where your bridge is, and while you’re at it, get a view of the network of bridges we’re creating together.

 

Camera Trap Project update

Thanks to the generous donations of our supporters we are so thrilled to announce we now have 16 camera traps! We are very excited to see the results of our research project on the usage and efficiency of our sloth crossings.

 

Two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) on the bridge SC-143 at Playa Negra

 

For a camera trap to be effective on a bridge, it must have a clear line of sight for any animals, with no leaves or branches that would get in the way of the motion sensor triggering the camera.

 

Variegated Squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides) on Bridge SC-081, Tortuguero. Camera images: ASVO (Asociación de Voluntarios para el servicio de Áreas protegidas)

 

Additionally, we are currently installing camera traps only on newly built bridges so as to record how long it takes animals to get used to the bridges and begin using them.

 

Kinkajou (Potos flavus) on bridge SC-143

 

We have the results for two of our camera traps that recorded footage for three months, and we discovered some really amazing animals using the bridges!

 

Wooly opposum (Caluromys philander) using bridge SC-081, Tortuguero. Camera: ASVO (Asociación de Voluntarios para el servicio de Áreas protegidas)

 

If you would like to donate to this project, please consider the camera traps that work best in the Caribbean climate and circumstances (according to our field experience!):

Spider monkey paper and bridge footage

Filippo Aureli from the University Veracruzana in Mexico contacted us asking about our experiences and observations of spider monkeys using our canopy bridges. He was working on a paper: “Do spider monkeys use artificial canopy bridges to cross linear infrastructure?

 

Spider Monkey (ateles geoffroyi) using bridge SC-081 in Tortuguero Camera ASVO

 

With the six bridges we installed in the North Caribbean town of Tortuguero last year we do have evidence of spider monkeys using them, and we were proud to collaborate with Aureli for his paper. We also got some very nice footage of spider monkeys using our crossings!

 

Spider Monkey (ateles geoffroyi) using bridge SC-081 in Tortuguero. Camera ASVO

One of the bridges in Tortuguero that got a lot of use was a connection between two trees on a rather remote property. In fact, one of the trees was in the National Park of Tortuguero. Underneath this bridge was lots of vegetation, smaller trees, and bushes. Observing this, Filippo Aureli and his team concluded that spider monkeys are more willing to use bridges over vegetation in places such as properties and gardens, but they are reluctant to use single-rope bridges above roads.

 

What a vacation in the South Caribbean might look like

Many of our Sloth Crossings are installed near hotels, house rentals, and accommodation properties. Every now and then visitors can get the chance to see the bridges in action!

 

Three-fingered sloth using the bridge SC-49, Playa Chiquita | Cederholm photography

 

This time our friends from UP House Costa Rica, also members of our Sloth Friendly Network Accreditation, shared with us the beautiful footage taken by their guest Ric Cederholm (Cederholm Photography):

 

Three-fingered sloth using the bridge SC-49, Playa Chiquita | Cederholm photography

 

 

Connecting with MOPT to install bridges above the main road

In accordance with our goal of installing differently designed wildlife bridges over roads, we recently had a meeting with MOPT (Ministry of Public Works and Transport). We are happy to say we have had some productive conversations about different bridge designs and places for possible future installations, and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future!

 

 

To start this off, we even have a donation of $5,000 from an anonymous donor that will be used to build one of our newer-design bridges over one of the main roads in Limon. Some of the roads in Limon are quite busy and are major contributors to habitat fragmentation in that area.

 

Bridges in the sky carry sloths to safety in Costa Rica

Need more sloths? Need more jungle wildlife on sloth bridges? We got a visit from a journalist hailing all the way from Mongabay who kindly recorded some of our Sloth Crossing Project footage. Need to learn more about generating safe connectivity for sloths in urban areas? Of course, you do! Check the video below!

 

 

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!

 

 

Capuchin monkey using bridge SC-129
Two-fingered sloth using SC-122 bis, above the road

 

Two-fingered sloth (named Tiki) using SC-122 above Tasty Waves Cantina

 

Capuchin Monkey on SC-080

 

Three-fingered sloth using SC-049

 

 

We hope you enjoyed this update, thank you so much for your incredible support of this project! Pura Vida!

 

 

 

 

-Tamara Avila

Sloth Crossings Project

Sloth Crossings Community Update! 2021 Highlights

Sloth Crossings Community Update! 2021 Highlights

 

What an amazing year we had! When we started this project we had no idea that we’d be installing more than 100 bridges… and in a few weeks, we’ll hit sloth crossing number 150! 

This project was entirely funded by our supporters and donors, so we want to share some of the highlights of this year:

 

1. Our team is now certified to climb by themselves.

2. The first bridge our team built was on a special trip to Tortuguero.

tortuguero sloth crossing wildlife bridge

 

3. The Tortuguero bridge was used by spider monkeys just a couple of weeks after we installed it!

monkey using wildlife bridge

4. We installed our 100th sloth crossing bridge in Cocles, in the area where our urban sloths Luna & Sol live!

5. We started installing bridges on the public maritime zone by the beach.

 

sloth crossing at the beach

 

6. We’ll be launching the second stage of the project (monitoring the usage of the bridges) next year.

7. One of the camera traps (we currently have 4) captured more than 6000 photos!

 

camera trap crossing

8. So far, we have installed over 2500 meters (more than 8,000 feet, or 1.5 miles) of rope!

Check out some of the footage of wildlife using the bridges in the following video:

 

 

We’ve come a long way

We started this project back at the beginning of 2019, with only two people. Now our team consists of Francisco Rodriguez, who’s also the manager of the Connected Gardens projects and all the reforestation initiatives; Diego Elizondo, who’s also in charge of the forest nursery; Dayber Barker, the main climber and assistant of the Urban Sloth Project; and me, Tamara Avila, who is writing this update.

Meet Dayber:

Meet Diego:

 

 

To be honest with you

We tried our best to have your wooden signs ready in time, but unfortunately, the carpenter we hired for this task was unable to meet our deadlines. Thankfully we have since found a small local company helping us with the signs, plus we’re doing many already ourselves.

We’ve come a long way to this point–with some delays, mistakes, disappointments–but also a lot of growth, experiences, and gratitude. Thanks to all of you who had the patience of a sloth and the love to support this idea and help us execute it.

This is just the beginning of this project.

The second stage

Now that we have reached more than 100 bridges we feel confident in taking the next step: We are going to start a deeper study of the usage of these bridges.

So far we have four camera traps, and of course, we can’t just expect to place them on a bridge and get good footage right away. We wish it could be that easy!

The truth is some bridges can take months until wildlife starts to use them. We don’t even know how long it takes for sloths, the true creature of habit, to get used to a new structure in their canopy!

 

sloth crossings wildlife bridge

 

Although we did observe one sloth that started using a bridge just a few weeks after installation, we suspect this was the exception rather than the rule.

We did learn that monkeys are faster than sloths (bear with us) in starting to use the wildlife bridges.

 

 

The challenge

In order to improve this project, make it more efficient, and start replicating in other locations in Costa Rica (as well as other countries), we need to monitor our bridges. As you can imagine, monitoring over 130 bridges with four camera traps is not going to be easy.

For this reason, we’ll be running a fundraiser for more camera traps. There are three cameras that have the specs we need: they must be jungle resistant, and most importantly, the sensor has to be sensitive enough to actually detect the slow movement of sloths. (Yes, that’s another level of difficulty!)

If you enjoy the updates of this project, and you have already invested in this project, perhaps you would consider helping us in this next stage and donate a camera–which we would of course name after you! You can even donate for a portion of the costs of a camera. Any support will be tremendously appreciated.

See you in 2022!

By the time you receive our next update, we’ll be celebrating the installation of our 150th Sloth Crossing, and hopefully, we can start putting bridges over the main road.

These road spanning bridges cannot be the single rope design we have been using because the canopy gap is much larger, so we need to build more steady, robust structures.

This will be done in collaboration with the Costa Rican Electricity Company (ICE) and with the Ministry of Environment, so coordinating this effort will require time.

I hope you stay with us in the next steps of this journey and continue supporting SloCo. Thank you so much for your great support and help, and I wish you all the best and an amazing 2022!

Pura Vida!

tamara

 

 

 

 

 

-Tamara Ávila Atagua

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