The Sloth Backpack Project
Sloths are one of the least studied mammals. Their survival strategy is camouflage, and as a result we know very little about how they live in the wild. Even the most basic information such as their natural diet and habitat preference still remain a mystery. The biggest problem for the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica has always been trying to conserve an animal without really knowing anything about it. As a result of this, we have struggled to release many of the hand-reared orphans that are brought into us for help. Due to the growing numbers of injured and orphaned sloths that are arriving, it is becoming essential that we can find a way to safely return these hand-reared animals back to the wild.
In order to do this, we first need to gain a comprehensive understanding of sloth ecology.
The Sloth Backpack Project involves tagging and monitoring the daily activity of wild sloths using a small device designed by Professor Rory Wilson called the “Daily Diary” This technology essentially allows us to see exactly what wild sloths are doing, and where they are doing it. So if a tagged sloth happens to be hanging upside down from a tree scratching its head, we can see exactly that.
Moreover, these exciting little devices allow us to calculate just how much energy a sloth expends as it goes about its daily business. When we consider that sloths really are the energy saving experts, this information is key to understanding their unusual ecology. The exciting potential that this technology holds for research has been recognised through Wilson receiving the prestigious Rolex Award for enterprise. Furthermore, the Daily Diary’s have now been recognised globally and were even used in the making of National Geographic’s largest ever series ‘Great Migrations’.
These devices are combined with VHF radio transmitters and GPS tags in specially designed sloth backpacks. Through the use of these backpacks, we are hoping to gain a better understanding of the sloths daily behaviour patterns including their diet, habitat preference, ranging patterns and reproductive systems. Using this information will provide us with the necessary scientific knowledge to give hand-reared sloths the best possible chance of survival when returned to the wild. Furthermore, this information will allow us to develop conservation strategies in order to better protect existing wild populations.
We are always looking to expand our research and deploy more Sloth Backpacks. If you would like to get involved then we are offering an exclusive “Sloth Backpack Sponsorship” package for $800. This donation would purchase an entire reusable backpack unit that we will use for the duration of our 3 year project. If you chose to do this, you will get the chance to:
- Name the backpack (this will appear on the backpack itself as well as in all publications resulting from this research);
- Receive acknowledgement in all scientific papers that we publish during the project;
- Receive frequent updates, videos and photos from the sloth wearing your backpack throughout the 3 year study.
If you are interested in sponsoring a Sloth Backpack or if you have any questions about the project, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.