Markie Dohrenwend ’13 makes fast friends with sloths in Costa Rica
For some people, working with famously lethargic animals might sound like a drag—but for Markie Dohrenwend ’13, nothing could be more exciting.
Dohrenwend spent part of this summer volunteering in Costa Rica at the world’s only sloth sanctuary. A longtime fan of sloths, Dohrenwend became aware of the sanctuary when it made an appearance on Animal Planet.
“I first heard about the sloth sanctuary last winter break. I am obsessed with animals, so a friend had mentioned a show that would be playing on Animal Planet called ‘Too Cute! Baby Sloths.’ Naturally, I had to record it,” she says. “I fell in love instantly; the sloths were adorable.”
The TV show made Dohrenwend begin to wonder if she could make going to the sloth sanctuary a reality.
“I re-watched the hour-long episode several times before exclaiming to my mom, ‘This place is too good to be true—I would give anything visit there someday.’ She told me to check online and find out more about it,” Dohrenwend says. “They have a website explaining that they are a nonprofit organization that receives no government funding, so volunteers and donations are crucial to the survival of the sanctuary. I applied and received confirmation that I would be working there several weeks this summer.”
Dohrenwend knew right away that volunteering at the sanctuary would be everything she had hoped for.
“I literally got hands-on experience. Within the first hour of arriving, I had a juvenile sloth clinging to my right hip,” she says.
Beyond being a sloth enthusiast, Dohrenwend knew this volunteer experience would be important to her future work.
“I am very interested in animal science and hope to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, so finding an opportunity like this was a dream come true,” she says. “By volunteering there I got animal experience with an exotic creature.”
Dohrenwend focused on the fact that volunteering at the sanctuary was a way of helping sloths in need recuperate enough to get back to living independently in the wild.
“Though the sanctuary acts as a safe haven for sloths that are too injured or are received at too young an age to be reintroduced into the wild, the main goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animal back into the rain forest,” Dohrenwend says. “The sanctuary has its very own vet that specializes in working with sloths. I was able to shadow him in addition to assisting in checking vitals, weigh-ins and taking some x-rays on my own.”
For Dohrenwend, volunteering in Costa Rica was not only fun, but affirmative, too.
“My time at the sanctuary definitely helped confirm my future aspirations. It was a life-changing experience, and it is inevitable that I will one day go back,” she says. “You just can’t help but fall in love with them! It was a great feeling getting to help an animal in need.”