The Urban Sloth Project: Meet BAGUETTE—the master of camouflage!
Baguette was the third three-fingered sloth collared for the Urban Sloth Project and was a rather spontaneous addition to the project. She was found while Suzi Eszterhas (World-renowned photographer and SloCo trustee) was visiting Puerto Viejo to document the plight of urban sloths.
Baguette was in a bad spot: atop a fence, desperately trying to reach the lowest nearby tree branch, while below her were two aggressive dogs barking.
Unfortunately, the branch Baguette was reaching for was little more than a twig, which would certainly not support her 5 kg (11 lbs) weight, and would have broken and dropped her right into the barking dogs. Dr. Cliffe and Suzi judged that the risk of mortality was very high for Baguette.
So Dr. Cliffe climbed on Cecilia’s (our Director of Development, also present) shoulders to reach Baguette, who was less than grateful for the intervention. In fact, Dr. Cliffe said that Baguette was one of the angriest three-fingered sloths she has ever had to handle, and she knows what she is talking about!
We have some of the adventure captured in pictures by Suzi, but what this one doesn’t show is how high the fence was! At about 2 meters (6 feet), the team would usually have gone back for a ladder in order to more safely handle a wild sloth, but there was no time.
(Instead, we have helpfully illustrated the situation in this fabulously rendered, hand-drawn, one-of-a-kind piece of art! Really, it makes you feel like you were there.)
Once Baguette was rescued, measured, health checked, and fitted with a backpack she was released into the area she was trying to reach. Since she was found on the same road as Croissant (known locally as “The Bakery Road”), Team Sloth kept with the naming convention and dubbed her Baguette.
And there began the journey of one of the most difficult sloths we have tracked to date.
The Heck Swamp
Baguette proceeded to move into an area of forest the Tracking Team promptly dubbed Heck Swamp (yes, that’s a euphemism). It was easy to understand why no one had decided to build on this land –it’s a swamp, and due to the deforestation around it, the frequency of major flooding is quite high.
While this was a mostly unpleasant area for our Tracking Team, it was a near perfect area for any sloth. The tall Sangrillo trees made for an excellent interconnected canopy, and the lot did not border any major roads, which is good news for animals that don’t want to confront traffic. However, it meant that Baguette was invisible the vast majority of the time, and has an overall visibility rate of only 26%.
A sloth hard to see…
The Tracking Team knew the chance of finding her was quite small on any given day, and the chance of her then being in a catchable spot was even smaller, so SloCo pulled out all the stops and poured resources into finding her.
The better part of April was spent with Amelia, the most experienced tracker (except of course for Dr. Cliffe), the rest of the Tracking Team, and the Connected Gardens Team knee-deep in the swamp, staring up at the trees for hours at a time.
Our best chance of finding Baguette was to get as many eyes on the trees as possible.
(And boy did the tracking team feel vindicated when our best sloth spotters—Francisco, Deyber, and Ames—also could not spot her! Ha! If they can’t do it, no one can.)
Days passed with no sign of Baguette, other than the incessant beeping of the receiver telling us she was right above our heads. However, the New Expanded Tracking Team did spot many other creatures; there is such an abundance of life living in this lot surrounded by homes, Airbnbs, and hotels.
Birds, butterflies, squirrels, insects, lizards, and even a Tyra call Heck Swamp home! Team Sloth was so impressed by this diversity of wildlife that we looked into getting Heck Swamp officially protected, and to our delight found that it is already listed as a protected wetland!
And so Team Sloth spent days and days in 50 cm (20 inches)—sometimes… depending on where you stood it could be ankle-deep one step and knee-deep the next—of swampy water, staring up into the canopy, desperately trying to spot a backpack on the back of one of the dozen sloths occupying this small plot of beautiful rainforest.
And then, finally, it happened
Team Sloth found Baguette, and for an absolute wonder, she was low down and catchable! Not only that, but while we had been desperately looking for her for all these months, she found herself a mate, got pregnant, and gave birth to an adorable little baby!
We didn’t name the baby, as Baguette was no longer part of the Urban Sloth Project, but we were so happy to see her thriving in her verdant and protected territory. Baguette didn’t even have to come down out of her tree for the de-backpacking, Deyber was able to quickly climb up and remove the backpack with no added stress for her or for Baguette Jr. (Ok, maybe we did name the baby. We couldn’t help it!)
Another surprise for us during Operation Guerrilla Baguette was finding a tayra sleeping away in a hollow in one of Baguette’s trees… in a stolen sarong! We caught a glimpse of the tayra up in the tree, and surmised that the sarong came from the laundry of the hotel directly behind the tree.