Meet the Sloths!
Lazy, adorable; meet the internet superstars!
A Tell Tail Sport?
Why the issue of docking dogs tails is a major bone to pick
PLUS... Find out more about the worlds laziest creature with our sloth fact page! Where can you find sloths in the UK? All revealed inside...
Proceeds for this issue will go to the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary
PG 2 Meet the odd yet adorable animals that have taken the internet by storm! Find out what itâ€™s like to look after these incredible creatures from the people who spend everyday looking after them.
PG 5 Speaking to veternarian Peter Vint, what does it mean for dogs to have their tails docked? Should the legislation ban be lifted?
PG 6 Sloth Facts! PG 9 Where Can I Find? Sloths
Hayley Hatherell goes on a hunt to find the internet sensations that are some of the laziest mammals on the planet!
have always been an animal lover with one of my first VHS tapes was Tales of the Riverbank. Those who are not familiar, it was a black and white program aimed at children in the 1960s. It depicted real life hamsters, mice and rats interacting with miniature sets, with actors voicing over the creatures actions. My sloth obsession however is fairly recent, but is just as deep and steadfast. I suppose the sloth boom happened about two years ago when they rose to prominence through Internet ʻmemesʼ. Then the spotlight shifted to the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica and YouTube clips such as, ʻBucket of Slothsʼ, and the world has been sloth mad ever since. Sloths live in the dense Amazonian jungle and are not exactly native to Europe, however my opportunity to see a sloth in the flesh couldnʼt be passed by. After doing some research I concluded that there were no sloths in Scotland (where I live) and therefore would have to take the search south of the border. My first thought was to find out a bit about the animals before I endeavoured to travel and see one in person. I wanted to build the suspense and learn a bit about what it was like to look after such odd creatures. My first port of call was Cotswold Wildlife Park where I spoke to Hayley Rothwell one of the keepers of the sloths at the park. Hayley told me that the two-
toed female sloth arrived at the zoo in March 2006 and the male arrived soon after. They both live together in the zoos Tropical House. The Tropical House is full of plants that they can forage on and trees from which they can hang and climb. I asked her what drew her to look after such a creature: “Theyʼre unusual looking, they almost look prehistoric.” I wondered how she felt about the media going crazy for sloths and if it help or hindered conservation of the animal: “Hindering really. As in the USA they are kept as pets. It increases the illegal pet trade, which is really sad since the sloths are taken out of their natural environment.” Next I spoke to Alan Toyne one of the senior animal keepers at Bristol Zoo. He told me that the park has three Linnieʼs two-toed sloths: two females and a male, making one breeding pair. “Sloths have been kept at Bristol Zoo for at least twenty years,” Says Alan. “We used to house them in our nocturnal house but now they are in a mixed exhibit with our Howler monkeys.” The enclosure is full of tree limbs, perfect for the monkeys and sloths to climb and swing from. “Sloths are relatively easy to look after. Our enclosures always have plenty of branching to enable the animals to move around and various forks in trees which provide them with sleeping sites.” Dense foliage also provides the animals with cover, as well as
food. Alan continues, “We feed them from hanging feeders, skewer food on branches etc. to make their feeding patterns as natural as possible.” Brightly coloured fruit is seen impaled upon rough spikes of natural wood, and the temperature in the enclosure is monitored closely: “Temperature and humidity levels are carefully maintained so the animals do not get too hot or too cold.” Alan is adamant that sloths, now more than ever, are facing severe environmental pressures in the wild. “Raising awareness is always a good thing. Like most species sloths are facing pressures in the wild through habitat destruction, so anything that gets the message out to the general public is a good thing.” I asked Alan what he thought about sloths becoming internet superstars: “The downside is people are now trying to keep them as pets – with all the problems that causes – animals not being looked after properly, injuring their owners, and being taken from the wild illegally. A good example is the YouTube video of the Slow Loris being tickled – as a direct result of people viewing that clip and then deciding they wanted a pet Loris, the wild numbers have been decimated.” Alan isnʼt wrong, in May last year ABC news reported on Colombiaʼs hottest selling animal in the illegal pet trade: Sloths. The report showed an undercover reporter meeting with an illegal pet trader. A box is produced, and inside a mother sloth and her baby can be seen inside. It is a sad reminder of the world we live in today. My sloth journey almost over, it was time to head to Cumbria, where I knew two Linnieʼs two-toed sloths were kept at the South Lakes Wildlife Park. The park itself thrives on co-habitats, where monkeys, lemurs and wallabies share the park freely, meandering in and out of grassy enclosures with emuʼs and peacocks. Here I met with Christina Fischer, the head keeper of the park. She told me that they had two sloths at the zoo, Stella the female and Stanley, the male. “Stanley is the larger of the two, and has a more placid, laid back temperament. Stella tends to be more highly strung.” I could hardly contain my excitement; I was finally going to see a sloth. The sloths are in an indoor facility near the lion enclosure, where they share their living space with a dozen or so Fennec foxes. “The sloths have great personalities,” Christina says. “They often follow their keepers around as they carry out their cleaning duties!” Itʼs hard to imagine a sloth moving at all to be honest. The enclosure itself was dusty; with sparse branches criss-crossing the fennec foxes dugouts above. My heart was thumping; I was so excited to finally see them. Christina tells me that usually on such warm days like today, the sloths and foxes would be outside in the outdoor enclosure. However due to the new arrival of a large bird of prey and the new aviary not being complete, the sloths have had to stay indoors. “Itʼs for the protection of the foxes as much as any thing else, a bird of prey that size would have no problem feeding on a fox that size.” My excitement at peak levels, I look through the glass into the enclosure, Iʼm told I am in luck; Stanley is hanging upside down from a rope with his head in a feeding tray. I look around the enclosure and see Stella, nestled on a ledge on the wall, dozing. “Usually they climb up above the windows so you canʼt see them. They like to sleep near the heaters.” Says Christina. As Stanley is chowing down,
Iʼm told that the sloths are fed on a mixture of fruit and vegetables and also a concentrated dry leaf eater pellet. “Theyʼre favourites tend to be banana, pear, spinach, baby gem lettuce and parsnip. During the summer months, they will browse feed, also as part of their diet. Things like willow and maple leaves and bark.” Iʼm told that the enclosure is maintained at a high temperature, “We keep the temperature at around 26 to 28 degrees and throughout the spring and summer months they have access to the outdoor enclosure, bringing them back inside in the evenings.” Stanley has stopped gorging and has slowly corrected himself so he is no longer upside down. He begins to climb up the rope, until he is out of view obviously nesting near the heater for a snooze – for a sloth he was quite fast! Christina then ducks into a cupboard and produces a broom at which point she asks me if I would like to go into the enclosure to get up close with Stella. The broom she says, is too keep the foxes away from my feet. Tears in my eyes, I take off my flimsy shoes and don my mothers far more sensible if not larger shoes, and crawl through the hatch that leads into the enclosure. The smell is over powering and the foxes scatter, but quickly come out of hiding once they smell my unfamiliar scent. They scurry and dance through the sand, while the sloths taking no notice at all. Stella is magnificent, and much larger in person than what I could see through the glass. I look up into the light, airy loft of their enclosure and see Stanleyʼs foot hanging over a heating duct. Broom in hand, Christina shoos the foxes away from our feet and asks if I would like to touch Stella. Timidly, I reach out and stroke the sleepy sloth, and note that her fur or hair rather, is silky soft. It feels nothing like it should from the pictures that Iʼve seen. Sloths in documentaries usually have coarse, rough hair riddled with a mossy green tinge to it, nothing like what I was touching. I get a quick photo taken with Stella, and duck out of the enclosure before the crowd that has formed behind the glass gets any bigger. “Itʼs a shame that such a peaceful, if not lazy creature, is subjected to a shrinking environment.” Christina is adamant that education is key to helping the future generation understand the plight of wild animals. “Deforestation is a major factor. Our habit as humans is growing at an alarming rate, where as the animals suffer
and have a shrinking habitat. Kids see animals on TV or in magazines but they donʼt understand them in context. Kids should see these animals in their natural habitat and see what it is like for a wild animal to thrive there.” Christina believes parks such as South Lakes are key in education and fund raising. “Of course that might not be possible, so parks such as this are the next best thing. And if we can raise money for conservation causes then thatʼs what is important. Kids need to see the animals, in the flesh to really understand their role in saving them.” Christina may have a point. After seeing sloths in the flesh it has further solidified my love for them, and has made me turn the fantasy into a reality. It makes conservation that much more real, when you can see the animals for yourself. With my quest to see sloths well and truly over, I did reflect on what many of the zookeepers echoed about such a unique creature. It is a shame such an odd, yet complex animal is facing such destruction to its species at such an alarming rate. Deforestation, illegal pet trading and poaching are among the things the sloth has on its mind. Hopefully more places such as South Lakes, will educate people on how unique the sloth is, and we can learn to look after them and appreciate them for generations to come.
You can visit South Lakes for yourself! Plan your trip by visiting: www.southlakessafarizoo.com
These interesting sloth facts come first hand from the keepers that look after these unique animals!
Sloths have complex intestines that are designed to break down over 40 different types of plant species!
Sloths only go to the toilet once or twice a week!
A unique species of moth makes its home among the dense fur of sloths living in the wild.
Sloths are notoriously hard to sex, only a DNA test will definitively answer whether a sloth is male or female!
Why the hunt is on to find the truth behind docking the tails of hunting dog breeds words by Hayley Hatherell
n 2007 the Scottish parliament passed a law that banned the docking of working dogs tails, ruling that the procedure was cruel and unnecessary. However, the outdoor community - those who enjoy the hunting, fishing and shooting side of sport - felt that the government had made a mistake. Those against the law changed argued that docking working dogs tails benefited the dog as it stop the animals suffering unnecessary injuries during shoots where they would go through thick undergrowth or encounter barbed wire. The vetʼs surgery is noisy and smells distinctly of disinfectant. Dogs bark loudly in the kennels at the back of the offices, and I can see cats clambering up large scratch posts in the cattery. It is a typical vet clinic, and it is here that I am to meet Peter Vint, veterinarian surgeon and keen outdoorsman. Iʼm here to find out the ins and outs of docking dogʼs tails and what it means for mans best friend. Iʼm seated in Mr Vintʼs office where I can see photographs of his family as well as his dog, which I see is some sort of black Labrador. Peter enjoys shooting and fishing and often has his dog, Zebadee with him on trips. I ask him if his beloved pet has an intact tail. “He is a retriever and traditionally, retrievers do not need to go into such thick cover as spaniels so do not have their tails docked.” The dogs in our family have long tails, apart from our Jack Russell that we adopted. She has a nubbin, which she wags with as much enthusiasm as her friends with whole ones. I asked Peter if it hurt the dogs and f it af-
fected them in any way. “Puppies grow up from only a couple of days old so presumably donʼt know what it was like to have one. Adults seem to cope well, but it is harder for them I suppose.” The changes in the legislation are welcome with Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman, saying: “We need to change this legislation. It is really bad for animal Welfare.” I wondered what sort of injuries dogs could get if they were out working. Peter says that at his practise they have a policy of not docking dogʼs tails. “As a practise, we donʼt do it. However, I believe the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has done research that shows that working dogs are at a greater risk of injury if their tails are left intact, docking an adult dogʼs tail to overcome an injury is far more traumatic than docking a puppyʼs tail.” But when it comes to fashion, Peter is firm: “I certainly agree that docking for reasons of fashion is unethical. There is no point.” He is of course referring to the practise of docking dogʼs tails that do not work. Rottweiler and Dobermanʼs are among dogs that often have short tails for aesthetic reasons, rather than anything else. But what sort of injuries could a dog sporting a longer tail suffer from? Peter explains the painful reality: “Lacerations and fractures from working in thick cover or from barbed wire. Tails are slow to heal because dogs insist on wagging them, traumatising the healing wound. Fractures can lead to loss of feeling and/or circulation in the tail, which leads to amputation.” I imagined dogʼs
whose work requires them to run and keep low to the ground through thick undergrowth, a tail certainly didnʼt seem worth it if it was always going to be hurt or in pain. I wondered what the process was like, did it hurt? “As puppies, the tail is nipped off with a pair of clippers an d the end is cauterised with a styptic pencil. Working dogs have quite a lot of tail left, compared to Rottweilerʼs, Dobermans and Old English Sheep dogs. Youʼll find that with these breeds the tail is cut off flush from the body, a much more traumatic and risky procedure often needing sutures.” It sounded grim that people would put dogs through such an unnecessary pain. “I definitely think the legislation should be changed,” Peter adds, “As I think by making it illegal we have seen a rise in legitimate injury, but also dog owners and breeders docking tails themselves, which is very risky indeed. A survey of more than 1,000 owners working dogs found more than half of undocked spaniels experienced a tail injury of some sort in 2013. The survey conducted by the University of Glasgow, commissioned by the Scottish government could mean that docking tails of working dogs by a third while they are puppies could significantly decrease their risk of injury, according to the research. “This doesnʼt surprise me,” Says Peter, leafing through my fact sheets. “Spaniels suffer many injuries while on a hunt, or shoot. Twigs and tree branches are prone to whip back and hit their eyes as they run often resulting in scratches on the dogʼs corneas. And because of the environment, they are often prone to cuts on their paws and legs.” Peter goes on to say that many of the injuries incurred arenʼt preventable. “However, docking a dogs tail could prevent them from going under anaesthetic, going through a surgical procedure and any post-operative pain.” Those opposing side has been less than
quiet over the debate. Animal rights charity OneKind says that docking the tails of puppies causes, “Pain and distress” Libby Anderson from the charity said, “Tail-docking of puppies may appear to be a simple procedure but it still causes pain and distress to very young animals.” Though Mr Vint isnʼt convinced, “You donʼt remember your umbilical cord being cut, nor will puppies remember their tails being clipped.” I have to admit, aesthetics aside, I do believe that dogs that are working in thick undergrowth regularly, should be subjected to having their tails docked when they are born. Before I go, Peter takes me into the recovery kennels where dogs and cats go to sleep of the anaesthetic after surger5y. A small spaniel cross is lying with his tail bound by gauze. “Here is a classic example of a working dog who has had his tail broken.” Peter tells me that because the break was so severe, and would never heal properly with persistent tail wagging, amputation was the only way to stop the animals suffering. “It may seem like a horrible thing to do an animal that is loyal and loving. You canʼt explain whatʼs happening, but all you can do is trust that you are doing the best for the animal.” Iʼm told that Havoc, who has had his tail amputated eight inches above his body, will make a full recovery. Whatever the debate may be, there is one thing that is for certain when it comes to manʼs best friend: we want whatʼs best. Peter believes there will always be those against it, “There will always be those opposed, but at the end of the day I love my dog, and he is part of my family. I think most dog owners would agree, you care for your pet just as much as you would a family member.” Hopefully, the legislation change will reflect that.
Cotswold Wildlife Park is the home of two sloths and located in the beautiful English countryside in Oxfordshire. The park was first started in 1970, and now over forty years later it is host to one of the UK始s largest zoological collections. The park relies totally on visitors and donations, and it is through this that they are able to offer education for young people, numerous endangered species breeding programs and several vital conservation projects in the wild.
Bristol Zoo is a registered charity and is home to three sloths. The five-hectare zoo is located in the heart of Bristol and has been around for over 175 years! Bristol Zoo Gardens was founded in 1835 by a group of locals, but opened to the public a year later. Now expanding, Bristol Zoo is a great place to see sloths great and small!
South Lakes Wildlife Park始s owner may have a 驶wild始 reputation, but David S Gil is serious when it comes to conservation. The park opened in May 1994 and strived itself on giving the animals as much freedom as they would get in the wild. The park has around 48,000 visitors each year, and has won Top Visitor Attraction six consecutive years in a row. They have two sloths, Stella and Stanley, who are well worth the trip to
ADOPT A SLOTH!