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Medina student helps rehabilitate sloths in Suriname, writes picture book
Did you know Oct. 19 was Sloth International Day? Sharanya Sarathy did.
The Lakeside High School senior and Medina resident was on hand at the Woodland Park Zoo's sloth exhibit on Saturday to inform visitors of the characteristics of the mammals. Sarathy also informed guests of environmental educator Monique Pool's efforts to rescue and rehabilitate sloths at her home in the Republic of Suriname.
She has volunteered with the zoo for four years.
"I got into it through my school, but I've always been into animals and conservation," Sarathy said. "If I had to pinpoint (when I became interested in conservation), even when I was very little I liked to watch Animal Planet and nature documentaries because I lived in Issaquah near Cougar Mountain."
Her home was wildlife country and she was fascinated by the deer, coyotes and other animals in her own backyard.
Sarathy learned about Pool after she made headlines for rescuing 200 sloths on private land being prepared for clearing. Pool converted her home into a sanctuary – the Green Heritage Fund Suriname – for the two- and three-toed creatures, which would become endangered when their habitats were deforested or were adopted as pets to unprepared owners.
In August, Sarathy took an opportunity to assist Pool at her sanctuary for 20 days, caring for seven sloths and preparing them to return to the wild.
"A big part of it was feeding them and making sure they drink water," she said. "(When they were mishandled pets, it) was not done malevolently. People just don't know how to care for them. You have to feed them the right stuff."
Sarathy worked frequently with a baby sloth named Lucas. Lucas was one of the group of 200 rescued by Pool, and had lost his mother.
Sarathy decided to commemorate Lucas and inform the public about the lives of sloths in an illustrated book, "Pool House Sloths." The book, available electronically and in paperback on Amazon, told Lucas' story from his perspective, while weaving in facts about the creatures.
Sarathy said she plans to continue her work with animals after high school.
"Hopefully in college, there will be more … opportunities to apply what I've learned," she said.