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1 May 2006 The Aviarios Sanctuary
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Aviarios del Caribe was created by Luis Arroyo and Judy Avey-Arroyo in 1972 with the purpose of protecting 96 hectares of lowland tropical rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. We rescued our first orphaned infant sloth in 1992. Since then our focus has been primarily on rescuing and caring for both kinds of sloths native to Costa Rica, Bradypus variegatus and Choloepus hoffmanni.

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This interest was born not just from the curiosity and admiration sloths inspire in those who take the time to truly understand them, but more importantly because of the lack of information available on them, despite their remarkable ability to adapt and survive from prehistoric times. Over the years, as we grew and expanded our focus, the rescue center became known as the Aviarios Sanctuary.

The sanctuary also responded to the need to educate people about these animals, and to protect sloths from a variety of threats caused by human intervention. As word got around, more and more sloths were brought to the center: baby sloths falling from their mothers, or orphaned because their mothers were killed — hit by cars, stoned or beaten by people, attacked by dogs, or electrocuted when crossing power cables — as well as adult sloths that managed to survive such horrific accidents, but were in need of medical attention, food, rehabilitation, and/or long-term care.

Through the years we have compiled a considerable amount of new information on sloth habitat, behavior, nutrition, anatomy, physiology, pathologies and reproduction, gathered from our own experience — much of it trial and error — as well as feedback from others working with this remarkable animal. All of this gives us a great amount of practical and theoretical knowledge on both species of sloth found in Costa Rica.

Our successes have encouraged us formulate a new plan in our work with sloths: to become the first sloth sanctuary focused on rescue, research and education. Our mission and vision are:

Mission

“To consolidate our Sanctuary as an agency that promotes and implements the protection and rehabilitation of sloths in Costa Rica, through the observation, study, care and analysis of animals in recovery; to promote actions that raise people's awareness and to facilitate education in order to improve the welfare and quality of life of these two species.”

Vision

“To be an integrated agency operating for the protection and rehabilitation of sloths, especially through study, research and exchange of knowledge that permits the development of scientific information on the species; to promote educational actions on the importance of sloths in our habitat.”

Our general objectives are, first and foremost, to rescue and rehabilitate sloths with special needs that are referred to our sanctuary, and to explore every alternative to improve their welfare and quality of life. Although many adult sloths have been reintroduced to the wild, we cannot do the same for the orphaned infants which we rescue and hand-raise. Until we are able to teach them how to survive in the wild as well as a mother sloth, we must consider alternative solutions, such as placing them on loan to qualified institutions, either in Costa Rica or other countries, as ambassadors for the rainforests of the Neotropics.

In addition, we will continue to study the behavior, lifestyle, physiology and pathology of sloths through research and the exchange of information. We hope to promote respect for sloths among people near and far, and we disseminate information on their importance to our environment, stimulating scientific and social interest in them with the support of those organizations involved in, and responsible for, environmental protection. In particular, we are working to expand our school-aged environmental education program to include children not only from our immediate area, but from throughout Costa Rica and beyond, in order to bring a greater understanding of and admiration for these extraordinary and fascinating animals to the future generations of our world.

We have invested considerable material and human resources into this purpose, and today, on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, we have 96 hectares of privately owned and protected primary and secondary forest, plus a building housing a medical clinic, nursery, a laundry room and a kitchen for the preparation of the sloths' special diet. We also have a separate building with an area for community outreach and educational activities, and, most importantly, the resident Bradypus and Choloepus sloths that need us — and teach us — every single day.

Over the years we have received many other animals as well, which we have cared for to the best of our abilities. Some of these animals have been successfully released into the wild; others have died or have been relocated to other rehabilitation centers. We have treated two other species of edentates, the silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and the northern tamandua (Tamandua mexicana). Other species of mammals which have been brought to us include the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata), olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii), kinkajou (Potos flavus), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), margay (Leopardus wiedii), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Mexican hairy porcupine (Coendou mexicanus) and paca (Agouti paca). We have also cared for a number of tropical birds, including rainbow-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii), collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), pomerine jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus), parasitic jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus), brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), and slaty-tailed trogon (Trogon massena). At this writing, one rainbowbilled toucan and four kinkajous are still in residence with us.

TABLE 1.

Number of animals received from 1990 to December 31, 2005. (Numero de animales recibidos desde 1990 hasta 31 diciembre 2005.)

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TABLE 2.

Total population of animals in the sanctuary as of December 31, 2005. (Población total de animales en el santuario hasta 31 diciembre 2005.)

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Much still needs to be done. The clinic is in desperate need of essential veterinary equipment, from basic supplies — stethoscopes, overhead lamps, surgical scissors — to expensive devices such as autoclaves, centrifuges, and ultrasound and hemogram machines. In the immediate future we will develop a protocol for universities and researchers from around the world who would be interested in joining our medical team to carry out research and education projects at the sanctuary. We are committed to our continuing education of the public, and to sharing information on our progress so that our mission and vision become a reality.

We invite anyone interested in learning more about our project or sharing their experiences in the management of sloths to contact us.

Notes

[1] Judy Avey-Arroyo, Project Director, and Franscisco Arroyo Murillo, Chief Veterinarian, Aviarios Sanctuary, 1 Km. Norte Puente Río Estrella, Penshurt, Limón, Costa Rica, or P. O. Box 569-7300, Limón, Costa Rica. E-mail: <aviarios@costarica.net>.

Judy Avey-Arroyo and Francisco Arroyo Murillo "The Aviarios Sanctuary," Edentata 2006(7), 55-57, (1 May 2006). https://doi.org/10.1896/1413-4411.7.1.55
Published: 1 May 2006
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