I wish to highlight to your readers another senseless trapping which resulted in unintended cruelty to a shy member of our voiceless wildlife. On April 17, just after 9 am, I got a call from Mr Mangal of the Presidential Guards Office in the Botanical Gardens. He told me there was a man at their gate trying to sell a sloth.
I went over to the gardens and found a young three-toed sloth in a rice bag. The ‘owner’ or ‘kidnapper’ of the sloth took it out but it could not move since it was securely tied to the fork of a tree branch to keep it from “running away.” Editor, it was heartbreaking to see the sloth try to move but without success. Both back legs were tied tightly to the tree branch with a black elastic band and the upper side of one was swollen to twice the size of the other. One of the Presidential Guards, Anil, took the time to carefully cut the elastic band loose. The sloth immediately moved his two arms and one of his legs but the swollen leg seemed to be without feeling. However, he soon realized he was free and began to crawl across the grass, pulling himself with his powerful long arms. Anil put him in my large dog kennel and I drove him to the Zoo.
The man who caught the sloth – let us call him P – said he lives at Half Mile Wismar and that he farms on the land. A week ago P said he saw a family of sloths in some trees and went to get help to chase them away. Some left but he managed to catch the smaller one. P told the Presidential Guards he also catches caiman, snakes and other wild animals and sells them to a “white woman” who makes regular visits.
I thanked the Presidential Guards for their concern and told them I thought they just watched out for people. Mr Mangal said their job was to look out for anything out of the ordinary and that they loved animals of all types.
I took the sloth to the Zoo for temporary housing. Since the three-toed Sloth is a herbivore, and only eats leaves from selected trees not available in the Botanical Gardens, I was told that the Zoo could only keep it for a short time, until their vet checked the sloth’s injuries. I promised to pick it up later and have it released back into the wild.
I was told that P had tried to sell the sloth to the Zoo but their policy is not to buy animals. That’s a good policy and, according to the Zoo Manager, it’s their attempt to send a message that wildlife should be left in the wild.
When Mr Mangal and I told P that it is illegal to capture wildlife (without special permits) he said he didn’t know about the laws. P’s attitude towards wildlife in Guyana seems to be way too common. Too many people seem to think that humans have the right to kill and eat wild animals wherever and whenever they like, or to catch and sell them to anyone at any time and in any quantity. That was the attitude of the seafarers who killed the last Dodo (a bird now extinct) on the island of Mauritius two hundred years ago.
Last week in a letter to the editor I referred to the new “Wildlife Management and Conservation Regulation,” recently passed by Parliament. P and people like him need to be informed as quickly as possible about the details of these new regulations. Our various agencies with responsibilities for protecting our wildlife must make themselves heard, sending their messages across Guyana, not once or twice but on a regular basis: Protect our Animals!
Thanks to the Presidential Guards (Mr K Mangal and Anil) for being alert and taking action; thanks to the Guyana Zoo for its support, and thanks to Gerhard Ramsaroop for releasing the sloth back into the wild, which took place on April 18th. A friend paid P’s passage back to Half-Mile Wismar. Let’s hope he learned something and stops trapping animals.
If you see a wild animal crossing the road and its life is in danger, please help it get to safety. Try not to touch it and please don’t take it home as a pet. Most wild animals brought into Georgetown have very short lifespans.
It is now 2.20 pm (April 18th) and I just received a call from Gerhard; he said he tried putting the sloth in a tree but it was too weak and fell out; he tried giving it water but it refused it. Strange how one can get so attached to a wild animal in just a few hours. I held back my tears and asked Gerhard to leave it in a protected area with plenty of trees and let nature take its course.
Editor, please publish this sad photo showing what man does to our wildlife for a few dollars.