The woman who lost a dog and gained 200 sloths

 

Monique Pool first fell in love with sloths when she took in an orphan from a rescue centre. Since then many sloths have spent time in her home on their way back to the forest – but even she found it hard to cope when she had to rescue 200 at once.

It all began in 2005 when Pool lost her dog, a mongrel called Sciolo, and called the Suriname Animal Protection Society to see if they’d found it. They hadn’t, but they told her about Loesje (or Lucia), a baby three-toed sloth they didn’t know how to look after. Pool offered to take it – and was instantly smitten. “They’re very special animals to look at,” she says. “They always have a smile on their face and seem so tranquil and peaceful.”

Sloths are gentle creatures, but are far from easy to keep. Their diet presents enormous problems, and the local zoo had shied away from the task.

Pool sought advice from Judy Arroyo at the famous sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, who told her she must feed Loesje goat’s milk – cow’s milk would be fatal. But goat’s milk is rarely available in Suriname and had to be sent over from the US. The leaves that sloths eat are also hard to source – and must be fresh.

Loesje had a surprise in store – she turned out to be a “he”. Male three-toed sloths display a characteristic spot on their backs when they’re a year old. “But we carried on calling him Loesje because he was used to the name,” says Pool. He was her very first charge but died after two years. “I didn’t know what was wrong with him,” she says. She wished she could just ask him. The experience taught her how little expertise there was in the rehabilitation and care of three-toed sloths, but she built up a network of contacts and hasn’t had a youngster die on her since.

 Sloths hang from bars

In Pic :Sloths hung all over Pool’s house – from the bars on the window and anything else they could grab onto

Soon Pool became the go-to woman for sloths in Suriname. If the police, the zoo or the Animal Protection Society hear about a sloth, they call her. On average, one or two sloths a week pass through her home before being released a few days later, unless they are hurt and need time to recover.

However in October 2012 Pool was faced with a crisis – “Sloth Armageddon”, as she puts it. A piece of forest near the capital, Paramaribo, was being cleared and she was asked to remove 14 sloths.

“I’d never seen more than six together, so we knew we’d have a lot to cope with,” says Pool. As a machine operator carefully pushed over the 15m (50ft) trees, the sloths in the canopy would fall to the ground, where they were picked up by Pool and her volunteers. Sloths move very slowly on the ground – even when they’d like to get away fast.

Sloth being weighed

In Pic :The baby sloths are weighed regularly to check their progress

A friend built enclosures in Pool’s back garden for the adults. “There were so many of them it was hard to open the cage and keep them all in,” she says. “As soon as they saw the doors open they’d try and get out.” At night, males would sometimes fight and have to be separated. “Normally sloths are solitary animals,” Pool says. “So to be so packed together was not a normal situation for them.” And they keep to different timetables – two-toed sloths are awake at night and three-toed sloths by day – so they had to be housed separately.

Four days into the rescue they realised they were dealing with more than 14 sloths – a lot more. “After a month we were close to 100, and at the end we got to 200,” says Pool. “On some days I had 50 animals at my house. We had 17 babies at one point, being fed with droppers by volunteers.” Pool had managed to source a steady supply of powdered goat’s milk by then.

Baby sloths were fed goat's milk with droppers

Sloths were hanging everywhere – from the trees in her back garden, from the bars on the living room window, and anything else they could hold on to. “Two female adults sat on the TV stand and the babies would climb on the matriarchs.” One very young sloth, known as Lola, would pop up in the strangest places, like the stove top – though not when the gas was alight, luckily. “She was an amazing little thing,” Pool says. “She didn’t like to sit with the others, she preferred to hang behind the fridge where it’s nice and warm.”

This was when Pool invented the term “slothified” as a description for her home and life – she plans to write a book about the experience. This is how she defines it:

Slothified (adj.)

1. Overwhelmed by sloths

2. Overwhelmed by sloth – so tired after catching sloths all day that you don’t want to get out of bed

3. Overwhelmed by the cuteness of sloths (baby sloths in particular)

4. Overwhelmed by sloth lovers

The one thing Pool could not do was slow down. She was at full stretch for two months, spending whole days at the forest clearance site, and organising teams to feed and care for all the sloths at home.

 

Monique Pool faced ‘Sloth Armageddon’ when she took in 200 rescued sloths

Luckily for the neighbours, sloths tend to be quiet – most of the time. “We had one, Bolletje (Little Ball), who was on heat and made a lot of noise to attract males,” Pool says. “We’d rush into the room because we thought they were fighting. She must have cottoned on to this because later, when she was no longer on heat, she would call just to get our attention. She was very intelligent.”

Sloths were hanging everywhere – from the trees in her back garden, from the bars on the living room window, and anything else they could hold on to. “Two female adults sat on the TV stand and the babies would climb on the matriarchs.” One very young sloth, known as Lola, would pop up in the strangest places, like the stove top – though not when the gas was alight, luckily. “She was an amazing little thing,” Pool says. “She didn’t like to sit with the others, she preferred to hang behind the fridge where it’s nice and warm.”

This was when Pool invented the term “slothified” as a description for her home and life – she plans to write a book about the experience. This is how she defines it:

Slothified (adj.)

1. Overwhelmed by sloths

2. Overwhelmed by sloth – so tired after catching sloths all day that you don’t want to get out of bed

3. Overwhelmed by the cuteness of sloths (baby sloths in particular)

4. Overwhelmed by sloth lovers

The one thing Pool could not do was slow down. She was at full stretch for two months, spending whole days at the forest clearance site, and organising teams to feed and care for all the sloths at home.

 

Monique Pool faced ‘Sloth Armageddon’ when she took in 200 rescued sloths

Luckily for the neighbours, sloths tend to be quiet – most of the time. “We had one, Bolletje (Little Ball), who was on heat and made a lot of noise to attract males,” Pool says. “We’d rush into the room because we thought they were fighting. She must have cottoned on to this because later, when she was no longer on heat, she would call just to get our attention. She was very intelligent.”

 

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