When I was thirteen years old my family moved to a small country in South America called Suriname. While living there, my mom helped an organization known as the Green Heritage Fund that would go into the rainforest and rescue sloths from the trees which were being knocked down to pave way for new buildings and homes.
My mom helped go on these missions into the rainforest a few times, and one time she finally let me join her. I remember how crazy it all seemed when I pulled up to construction zone. In a third-world country where you see very few technological advances I had not expected to see so many bulldozers and cranes. My mom stood with me by the cars so I could see the process of how we would get the sloths from the trees. I stood there and watched as a bulldozer knocked down tree after tree. After it had knocked down about 6 trees, this is when the work began for us volunteers. We would have to go into the trees and search every branch for sloths. When we found one, we’d have to pick it up and bring it to kennels in the truck.
I remember the first sloth I rescued like it was yesterday. As soon as the company gave us the go ahead, I jogged over to the trees and began looking for a sloth. Although I didn’t know this before, the trunk of these trees had thorns all over. I was wearing shorts and the second I got on my knees to look I could feel them. They dug into my knee like a dagger and I began bleeding. I stood up quickly and considered going back to the car to bandage myself up. That’s when I saw Lola.
Lola was this tiny, three-toed sloth that I saw hidden under the branches. She made a faint cry and that’s when I told myself I had to suck it up and dig her out. I’m not able to explain the pain I felt from the constant scratching my arms endured from the thorns. However, the adrenaline kicked in soon and I no longer felt any pain.
When I finally reached Lola, I became overjoyed. She was perfect. She looked at me with her big eyes and that permanent smile of hers and I immediately fell in love. I eventually went back to digging for more sloths and ended up saving 5 more on my own.
In total the Green Heritage Fund rescued forty-six sloths that day. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about sweet Lola. I went with my mom to visit her at least once a week for a few months. Over the course of these few months she grew double her size and I like to think she began to recognize me. I would feed her formulated milk from an eyedropper as well as these yellow flowers that grow on banana trees (those were her favorite).
After about five months, Lola had grown large enough that she could be released back into the wild. I went with my mom, some volunteers, and Monique Pool, the founder of Green Heritage Fund, to release Lola and several other sloths back into the wild. We picked a forest spot by White Beach since the trees there had the same leaves that the sloths had been eating. I held Lola for the last time that day. When I finally put her into the tree she just hung onto her branch and looked at me for a while. I was overwhelmed with emotions.
On one hand, I was happy that she was finally being returned to the wild where she belonged. But on the other hand, I was sad because I knew that I would never get to look into her big eyes again. I like to think that Lola’s still living in that little forested area of White Beach and that she still eats her favorite flowers from the banana leaves. But this is probably not the case.
I’ve witnessed first hand how fast the rainforest’s natural resources are being depleted. I’ve dug through the trees with my own hands trying to save some of the thousands of animals that are dying everyday due to deforestation. So we have to ask ourselves what we can do to help this. What we can do to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. When I think of Lola I think of innocence. I think of helplessness. We need to help animals like Lola because they can’t help themselves. So the next time you think that deforestation isn’t a threat and that it has no affect, think of Lola.