Expansion to the Sloth Sanctuary
Panama is home to three of the six sloth species that exist in Central and South America and is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
The main threat to the sloth is human development, especially roads and urban areas. That is the reason for the creation of a Sloth Sanctuary. When sloths cross the street or cross a residential area, they face many dangers that would not be found in a forest, where the trees allow them to move without having to go down to the ground.
According to the Director of the Pan-American Association for Conservation (APPC) Néstor Correa , the main objective is to ensure that they do not become extinct, since they fulfill an important function in the ecosystem.
The sloth is known as the "gardener of the forest", as it is one of the few animals that feeds on the leaves of trees and fertilize the trees with their feces.
The Sanctuary of Sloths is created mainly for the rehabilitation and liberation of sloths and for environmental education directed to Panamanians and foreigners. The Wildlife Care Center hosts tigrillos, ant-eaters and other animals of the Panamanian fauna. Environmental education is key to raising awareness about sloths, and so that visitors can contribute with their protection.
This initiative began in 2014, when a cooperative alliance was signed between Gamboa Rainforest Resort and the APPC for the creation of new rescue and rehabilitation facilities for animals. In 2017, the Sloth Shrine was inaugurated in the the Gamboa Rainforest Resort facility.
By October 2018, the second phase of the Sloth Sanctuary plans to open its doors and will be dedicated to the reintroduction of orphaned or injured sloths, since these require more time to adapt to wildlife.
This second phase began construction in April 2018, and the opening for the family fair is expected on the International Day of the Sloth, on Sunday, October 21, 2018.
The APPC, founded in 2005, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that has rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 4,500 wild animals, of which 1,000 have been sloths. Most of these sloths are rescued from forest areas that have been devastated and then released into national parks and other protected areas. This has a huge benefit for the species, since it reduces the chances of it becoming extinct in the future.
The APPC is supported thanks to the support and donations from individuals, but also from international organizations, such as: the Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
After the signing of the cooperation agreement with the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, the APPC receives a monthly donation for the sustainability of the Wildlife Rescue Program.
"The biggest challenge I find is lack of awareness. Most people are not aware of the situation of animals. "
Christine Charlick, from Busch Gardens (EU).
These funds come from a percentage of the money that visitors pay when they visit the Sloth Sanctuary, the Wildlife Center and the other exhibits within the resort. The Ministry of Environment for the first time, has promised to support the APPC in its new project and the future of this, "Wildlife Care Center", which will be developed in a building located in the Gamboa Resort.
The first phase of the Sloth Sanctuary is divided into 3 areas: a special attention area for orphaned sloths from 0 to 6 months of age, which are currently located in the facilities of the APPC in Gamboa. Then they will move to the future "Wildlife Care Center" (located in front of the Sloth Sanctuary).
The next area is an educational exhibition, where the sloths spend hours resting, and another area open to the public, where they can be seen in an open area, without cages, of 1,200 m2.
The second phase, under construction, consists of 3 areas of 500 m2 each. The first is an area of open forest, where sloths can adapt to their natural habitat without danger. Once they become accustomed to wildlife, a tracking device is placed on them, and they are allowed to leave the shelter with the help of ropes. Among its threats are snakes, the harpy eagle, the jaguar and the humans. The sloths can be observed from above, in the trees, since a bridge will rise and cross the enclosures.
The intention is that the number of sloths in the Sanctuary do not exceed 30 animals. he area of reintroduction is of utmost importance, since it allows the flow of entry and exit of the sloths towards their new habitat.
Néstor Correa explains the process when arriving at the facilities: the baby arrives at the sanctuary and special care is given to it while it is fed with goat’s milk and small leaf buds. After they feeding, they train them to look for their own food on the premises. When they turn one, they move them to the reintroduction area (which is under construction) and there they will spend between three to six months. Finally they will be released with a tracking device to monitor their behavior and make sure they can survive on their own.
The biggest challenge for the construction of the sanctuary is the financing of the work. It has been possible to move forward thanks to the support of organizations such as the Zoo Miami, the Sea World Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and visitors to the sanctuary. The organizations invite people to participate and contribute to the projects, visit the facilities or entering their web pages.
At the Wildlife Care Center, The APPC receives wild animals that can be reintroduced to their natural habitat, that are injured, orphaned or disoriented. Each year they receive 300 wild animals and hope to double that when the new center opens.
Education is the first step for the conservation and protection of wild animals. Inside the "Wildlife Care Center" visitors can observe the work done by the APPC, especially the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife. The center will be equipped with a modern veterinary clinic, a care area for newborns, a kitchen where special food can be prepared, exhibition areas and a screening room.
The visitors will be able to observe all this during their visit through a safety glass. This design was developed with the help of Bush Garden in Tampa (Florida) and is similar to its "Animal Care Center".
The capacity of the center is from 25 to 60 people and will take between 30 to 45 minutes to visit. The facilities will be open for public and to private schools.
The objectives of this center are: to attend more wild animals that need special attention, as well as to educate children and the community about the importance of wild animals for the future of forests.
According to Christine Charlick , director of the Busch Garden Education Program, the action of one person can make a big difference. If people have the opportunity to know about the current situation of an animal, and the ways of how humans impact on their lives, they are more likely to take precautions.