I began 2015 with a strong feeling that this was going to be a great year, and so far it’s turning out to be true. The Sloth Backpack Project is really beginning to pick up speed and I have a lot of exciting new sloth research underway.
The Pygmy sloths of Panama are considered to be one of the worlds most critically endangered mammals with the last official population count identifying only 79 individuals (Kaviar et al. 2011). Beyond the original description of the species we still know almost nothing about these little sloths with scientific rigour. We don’t know how many of them remain, we don’t know enough about their diet and habitat needs, we don’t understand when and how they reproduce, and we still don’t really know why and how they became dwarfed on their small island. Now, after months of working with the Panamanian government, I am delighted to have finally been granted permission to conduct research on the genetics, ecology and evolutionary history of the pygmy sloths in collaboration with biologist Sam Kaviar and paeleoecologist Ryan Haupt. If you would like to help us complete this work, please check out our campaign page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-the-critically-endangered-pygmy-sloths
Since beginning the Sloth Backpack Project in 2013, I have been desperately trying to tag a wild two-fingered sloth – but a combination of equipment failures, injuries and escapee-sloths stood in my way. I finally managed to do this in November, although it was no easy task!
Although 2014 got off to a great start, it unfortunately didn’t end that way. The last few months before Christmas were plagued with disappointments, equipment failures and flesh-eating parasites - but as I have come to learn, that’s science! Things rarely work out as planned, and we have to be flexible in order to find creative solutions to unexpected problems as they arise. In November alone I had 4 backpacks fail due to technical issues, one completely disappeared overnight and the VHF transmitter on another died leaving me unable to track that sloth and his backpack full of data. Thankfully, since the beginning of 2015 things are finally looking up.
The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica just received their fifth baby sloth showing severe birth defects. This baby was found on Isla Uvita; a tiny island off the coast of mainland Costa Rica covering just 0.8 km². This uninhabited island was previously thought to be too small to support a viable sloth population, however the discovery of this little baby proves otherwise. This special little sloth was called Onesie: he has only one finger and one toe on each hand and foot. Unfortunately, Onesie is not an isolated case – the incidence of congenital disorders in the wild sloth population appears to be increasing, and we want to do something about it. Click here to help us!