I drag my ass out of bed at about 6:30; feed Cat; wash teeth, brush face… or is it the other way around? Hopeful coffee is ready so armed with my Spanish/English dictionary I approach the kitchen and inquire to the cook’s health this fine/wet morning. If I am lucky I will get a Spanish grunt out of him as I scurry to the coffee pot – some days it will be fresh, others made the day before and aged to, well, crap. Today I get fresh, Yah! I have sworn off off the eggs, the grease level is way too high and fill up on wonderful bread and peanut butter (mine) and fruit.
Soon I mount my trusty steed – the Pink Panther and I am off. It is about 20 min. ride to the rescue center and it is always such a delight. At 7:15 it is quiet, mostly locals pedalling off to work and receptive to my greetings. The air is fresh and the Howlers and the dogs have all gone to bed so it is quiet and I am surrounded by nature, lush and green with vivid splashes of flower power. Not for the last time today, I will think me a lucky girl.
I arrive at Jaguar and park with the many bikes, they being the #1 mode of transportation in this neighbourhood. I go to check the roster to see what I will be doing today; could be cleaning and feeding the birds, cleaning nose and finger prints off the miles of glass, cleaning and feeding the baby sloths in their house, cleaning the monkey dorm or helping Jimmy with the gardening (raking the millions of leaves that fall every hour!). Note that there is always cleaning going on here, it is never done.
I am on Sloth house today – Yipppeee! It means that I will be cleaning as the buggers try to grab hold of me for a morning cuddle, and once they lay a claw on you, you’re doomed to do the work with a sloth attached to you! oh darn. :}.
I grab some rags and disinfectant, a wheel barrow and some leaves to keep them pacified and go in. Surfer will be scooting along the large branches that lace the enclosure, squawking his indignation that it has taken me too long to get there and hug him. At times I will find myself running, crouched over, to avoid those nails, but to no avail. While mostly they are slow, baby sloths will break speed limits to get some cuddle time, especially Surfer since the others refuse to allow him into “their” cubbies. It is not hard to convince me that hugging a baby sloth is not the worse thing in the world and I let him hang on my hands and draw him close. I burrow my face in his coat inhaling the wonderful sloth smell I can’t seem to get enough of.
Finally the enclosure is cleaned and the dishes of vegetables are ready and the lucky sloths get breakfast in bed. Sometimes we need to help them figure it out but soon they are ready to play outside. The bamboo mat is laid as close to the bushes as possible then we carefully we ease them out on top of their blankets and urge them to grab hold of a branch. Some are happy to get into the “hang” of things but Surfer and Frankie often make a play to hook you into a hug. But while we could all spend the day spoiling them it is important for their development that they spend as much time doing sloth-like things in baby sized trees, aka – bushes.
Someone drops the basket of kids from the nursery off and we pile them up on their blankets near a bush so that if they want to they can give it a try. They are so young that they have just started to be interested but what’s funny is that if one starts to climb, one of the others will hug and drag him back to the blanket. There’s 3 of them: one 3-toed and two 2-toed and while in nature the 2 species never hang together, (in fact sloths don’t hang with anyone except their babies) being mom-less causes them to cling to one another and to us. I guess it takes all of us to try and replace their moms and we still don’t cut it but we’re better than nothing, right? The love we lavish on these babies often can mean the difference of life and death for them.
All morning the tours will come by and end at the Sloth Garden and often people can’t resist lingering and taking endless pictures and asking more questions or just standing and watching them. Sloths cause smiles. I was on Trip Advisor the other day checking out what the visitors had to say and looking at their pics and OMG there I am! I wonder how many pics of me are out there in netspace… Occasionally someone will drop off some Hibiscus blooms; the babies LOVE them!
The afternoon comes and with the last visitor a quiet descends on the center and we take turns having lunch, never leaving the sloths alone. The people with forest duty have literally followed the last visitor out of the monkey mansion draped with the rest of the monkeys, usually about 4 each, and they march off to an afternoon of play in the trees where they get to just be monkeys. If the morning was particularly busy with visitors the monkeys will really be keyed up and looking forward to burning off energy in the forest. This, I think, is the key to Encar and Sandro’s release agenda. People’s #1 concern is that with all the human contact that the monkeys have how will they be able to be released successfully? It is because of all the access they have to the forest and to the wild monkeys every day. This is where they are reminded that they are indeed monkeys and they are ultimately in control of when they are ready not to come back to the center. Out there they are not in a cage or in any way constrained. It is amazing!
The really young ones rarely venture far from the blanket and their humans, they roll around playing with each other and using us for comfort and as play mats. But they do start to go a little further each day as they get more confidant and watch their older sibs having so much fun high up in the tree canopy.
While the monkeys are all in the forest the rest of us not watching the Sloths, are cleaning the monkey mansion, and I mean clean! Every surface is disinfected within an inch of its life. All morning the people working in the MM are constantly cleaning up the feces and the urine and any food that hits the dirt so there isn’t a lot of that stuff to deal with now, unless they got really excited which always translates into exploding diarrhea. EEEEUUUUU. Not pretty and it smells even worse.
After all is clean we feed Orlando ( squirrel), who has us roaring with laughter at his energetic eating dance. Boris (the wooly opossum) gets some live monster grasshoppers – fascinating and gross all at the same time as this cute little critter tears them apart.
Xai (deer) gets some food as does the birds. One of the staff feeds the hawks (don’t ask) and the horses.
The sloths get tucked into their cubbies with clean blankets and fed. Then the monkeys arrive back from the forest full of their day and themselves, often to the soundtrack of “We are the Champions”! Lua ( the coati), who spends the day out with the monkeys, comes tearing in as well. Bottles are handed out to any spare hands and monkey madness ensues. Pushing and shoving and demanding and pouting. Some have their favourite nipples, some just want THAT bottle because someone else is drinking from it. There is also plates of fruit and vegetables and some actually get eaten and not thrown around. These are healthy happy animals secure that they are safe and loved no matter how foolish they are.
Suddenly it is all done… at least for today and we slowly trundle off to have coffee or what have you. It is a very full 8 hours, 5 days a week but it is good work that leaves me feeling satisfied that in some small way I made a positive difference today.
I feel very honoured and fortunate beyond words to have had this experience. It has changed me profoundly to experience what good people can do to make a difference. Thank you Jaguar Rescue Center for all you do every day without fail.