This Woman Lost Her Dog... And Gained 200 Sloths. Prepare To Be 'Slothified'
April 4, 2014
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."
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 50 foot 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.
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.
Pool feeding a sloth
Four days into the rescue they realized 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.
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:
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
All the sloths rescued during "Slothageddon" were released back into the wild, apart from three babies - now teenagers - who aren't quite ready to fend for themselves. Pool calls them "lounge sloths" because they roam freely around the house. It's a tribute to her expertise that they have survived for so long - three-toed sloths usually die after months in captivity, and it's a race against the clock to get them back to their natural environment. If new arrivals refuse to eat, Pool also lets them go - often their depression lifts when they see trees.
Meanwhile, another crisis looms. Pool has found out about a new patch of forest which is going to be cleared. The owner thinks there are 15 sloths, so Pool has calculated there could be as many as 300.
It's likely to be Slothageddon II.
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