Chelsea Morton

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Chelsea Morton


Advisor:  Dr. Clayton Nielsen

Research Interest:

In the Neotropics, many wildlife rescue organizations have a mutual goal of rehabilitating and releasing native fauna back into the wild to increase genetic diversity of wild populations and promote the conservation of vulnerable species. In Panama, the Hoffmann's Two-Toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) represents one of the most rescued species that is commonly affected by car collisions, electrocutions, domestic dog attacks, illegal pet trafficking and loss of habitat due to urbanization. One of the major challenges that rescue organizations in Central and South America are faced with is the hand-rearing of orphaned sloths and the process of assessing whether or not wild-born, captive-raised sloths are fit to be released into the wild.  

I will measure the behavior, dispersal capacity and survival rates of hand-reared sloths using the technique soft-release, that will provide a gradual transition back into the wild. I am interested in comparing activity budgets, dispersal time and distances and habitat selection between juvenile and adult two-toed sloths. Understanding how these hand-reared animals adapt to being in the wild will be useful to assess the adequacy of current husbandry practices in preparing sloths for long-term success post-release.