The Sweet Saga of Mango
We will never forget that stormy day in May 2021 when we found Mango on the ground outside of HQ, tiny and wet, and clearly out of her depth. Jim, our plushie sloth mascot, came to the rescue as Mango’s surrogate mother. Mango clung to Jim and almost immediately fell asleep.
At this point, we were not sure whether Mango was male or female – this has sometimes led to some discrepancies in our writing, as we first assumed Mango was male. As Mango matured, it was clear that ‘he’ was ‘she’ when there was no sign of a speculum.
Mango turned out to be a firm favorite of Team Sloth. Her close proximity to SlotHQ meant the whole team got to watch her grow and explore.
She is certainly one of our most photographed sloths, as she consistently cooperated with our tracking efforts and firmly remained in her small patch of forest we call Mango’s Haven.
After a good nap and a hearty meal of baby Guarumo leaves, freshly picked from our tree nursery, we fitted Mango with a tiny backpack and sent her on her way once the storm had passed.
2021 saw Mango’s first equipment change from a backpack to a collar.
There was only one near-disaster with Mango at the end of 2021 when we suddenly received no signal from her VHF collar. This meant the battery had died (this does not happen suddenly), or more likely, someone had interfered with her collar.
We searched and found a small sloth sleeping in one of Mango’s favorite spots at the base of a Guarumo tree. While she was very low and close to the edge of the forest, her mottled fur camouflaged perfectly with the tree bark, which meant that anyone not specifically looking would not spot her. While there were a number of beach-goers, no one had spotted her.
We compared photos of Mango to the little sloth and could match up the markings on the fur perfectly. Mango really favored the low spots as a juvenile, so it is entirely possible that someone could easily misguidedly removed her collar. We fitted her with a new collar and placed her back in her hidden spot.
Mango becomes a juvenile
As Mango matured into her teenage-phase she thankfully began to favor snoozing in higher spots, making it much less likely that anyone would interfere with her again. This was also when we realized that Mango was female.
After almost one year with her collar, we swapped it out for a backpack in mid-2022. While she had grown significantly, and on most other mammals, one year may be far too long to go without adjusting a collar, this is another area where sloths do not conform to the norm. The circumference of sloths’ necks do not grow proportionally to the rest of their bodies, so the collar was still fitting perfectly. Mango was cooperative and calm throughout the entire process, as usual.
The dataloggers collect millions of data points each day, which is not easy on the batteries. These batteries will only last a few weeks.
More Backpacks for Mango
For most sloths, there is the stressful knowledge that we will have to find a moment to recapture them in the coming months, and most sloths don’t make that easy. Mango, however, alleviated all that stress as her movements were so predictable. This would be her third backpack!
Mango decided to do some exploring after this – she traveled almost 100m (330ft) along the protected maritime zone forest in front of SlotHQ. It’s very normal for juveniles to make these big changes, but Mango decided to return to her usual spot within a few days of adventuring.
September of 2022 saw us equip Mango with her fourth backpack, and then with her fifth and final backpack in October. Mango was always calm and made our jobs easy!
The end of 2022 brought change for Mango. Development of Playa Negra roads was underway, and the tree trimming began. This concerned us as one of Mango’s most favorite spots was the Playa Uva (Coccoloba uvifera) overhanging the road. Luckily she found refuge in the tall mountain almond tree (Dipteryx sp.) at the center of her habitat and returned to the Playa Uva cluster later that week, seemingly unbothered by the interference.
The beginning of 2023 saw Mango maturing into an adult, moving higher into the trees and picking far more stable resting spots than the Playa Uva that could only just support her as a juvenile. We knew that our time tracking Mango was drawing to a close.
Mango’s last track
Tamara retrieved Mango from one of her new favorite spots, and for the first time, she put up a fight! This was a great sign that she had matured into a strong adult.
Mango has gone from a 1.45kg baby to a 3.6kg adult who will likely have her own baby soon. We watched her grow and explore, discover her territory, and she made our work days a little brighter. We could always count on Mango.
We’re thrilled to have a full set of data, with billions of data points from Mango, providing us with invaluable information from a sloth growing up in a disturbed area. We’re excited to learn and understand how life for Mango in a disturbed, quickly changing environment compares with her counterparts growing up in a healthy forest.
We’re scientists, but before that, we’re humans and let us be honest, it is really hard not to get a bit attached to a sloth we monitored for over 30 months! Our founder, Dr. Rebecca Cliffe, was understandably emotional.
We come to learn about Mango’s life and personality, about her struggles and resilience, and no matter what was going on in our own lives at the time, we found some peace in Mango.
The end of an era
Uncollaring Mango marks the end of an era for SloCo as we also say goodbye to our first HQ. We are moving a few kilometers south, deeper into the jungle, and we cannot wait to see what our new HQ brings!
We put so much love into our HQ; sharing meals and meetings, competitive team building exercises of pictionary, troubleshooting logistical issues, organizing ourselves, and, importantly, a place to come together as a team, with one goal in mind – creating a safer world for sloths.
Although Mango is not monitored anymore, we still have many years to come to analyze the billions of data point her backpacks and collar provided us. This is not a farewell, but a see you later, Mango!
The Urban Sloth Project