Monday, Sep 27, 2021

Panama offers a safe home for sick orphaned wild animals

Most of the animals in Panama that arrive at a shelter in Gamboa are sloths – more than 30%, the second are cases with birds, such as owls.
Sloth bears, ocelots, squirrels, monkeys and opossums rest in peace in a shelter in the lush Gamboa rain forest, in Panama, after being rescued from illegal traffic or accidents and while they wait to be reinserted into their natural habitat.

They are orphaned, sick or injured specimens that have been taken in by the staff of the Pan American Conservation Association (APPC), a Panamanian non-profit organization dedicated to receiving and rehabilitating the wild fauna of the Central American country.

"We take care of animals that need some type of rehabilitation with the aim of returning them to the forest as soon as possible," the executive director of the APPC, Néstor Correa, tells Efe.

Most of the animals in Panama that arrive at the facilities are lazy, in "more than 30%, the second are cases with birds, such as owls, and squirrels that fall from their nests, and now opossums or porcupines are reaching us "explains Correa.

Made up of a multidisciplinary team, the members of the APPC heal and monitor the wildlife of Panama, increasingly threatened by the high speeds of drivers and stalked by illegal traffic.

The animals are transferred to suitable spaces to provide them with care until they obtain the abilities to survive in the jungle: among them is a young ocelot, a type of feline that lives mainly in the tropical forests of America, without its fangs that were pulled out to its sale.

The illegal trafficking of animals is a problem that persisted during the pandemic and is increasingly persecuted by the Panamanian authorities, which now have an environmental police, a specialized body within the institution.

"We have detected throughout the country, because it is in transit, the transfer of animals in an irregular manner: the illegal capture and sale. This is an environmental crime of smuggling wildlife", details the director of the metropolitan area of ​​the Ministry of Environment of Panama, Enrique Castillo.

Small, easily transported species, such as birds or mammals such as sloths, are the most affected in this irregular movement, whose final destination is to stay in the country "for private collections" and export abroad.


Under the offices of the APPC, a group of students from the United States dissects sloth bears that have died from outside causes, as a practice to know the anatomy of the small mammal, which is not common in their country.

"The objective is for them to have training in wild medicine. They are here, at APPC, and then they will go to the private clinic, where we teach them how to handle exotic mammals, reptiles and birds," explains Dr. Julio Reyes to Efe.

The six groups made up of almost a dozen students are part of an international program that is being carried out for the first time in Panama, where the specialization of wildlife is only one subject within the Veterinary career.

Correa hopes to resume training classes for the state security entities as soon as possible, he tells Efe while insisting on providing more education to civil society to give the animal a good rescue.

According to Correa, one of the most common mistakes when sloths are found outside their natural habitat is to feed them foods that the animal does not process and cause a stomach disorder that culminates in the short-term death of the animal.


One of the future projects that APPC and Fundación Natura hope to start to help curb the deaths of animals on the roads due to accidents is the creation of aerial crossings adjacent to the roads that cross wooded areas.

"We presented a proposal to the Fundación Natura to start a pilot project that analyzes the number of animals run over in order to put up new signs and air crossings," says Correa.

These steps are designed for "woodland animals, which are 80% of those that pass near the road and prevent them from passing over it", and "one of the main users could be primates or sloths".

For terrestrial animals they are considering "putting warning signs" and "later on, motion detectors that warn the driver that there is an animal in the area", as has already been done in other countries.


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