PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CNN) — Sloths. They hang from trees, move very slowly and make people smile with just one look.
In recent years, the Internet has helped these creatures achieve an almost cult-like status among animal lovers.
But in the South American country of Suriname, one woman has been the sloths’ passionate protector for more than a decade.
Monique Pool discovered her love for these animals in 2005. While looking for her lost dog, she called the Animal Protection Society and learned that a baby sloth had been orphaned. Pool offered to take it in.
“I didn’t know anything about sloths, but I learned a lot,” said Pool, who sought advice from international experts on how to care for the animals. “Now, when sloths are injured or in trouble, all the telephone calls come to us. The police, the fire brigade — even the zoo calls me.
“Some people refer to me as ‘The Sloth Lady.’ I think it’s an honor.”
Today, Pool’s nonprofit, Green Heritage Fund Suriname, helps protect sloths and implement other conservation efforts in the country. Her home serves as a temporary sanctuary for the mammals, and she is now a recognized local authority on them.
Pool also takes in anteaters, armadillos and porcupines. To date, she and her volunteers have rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 600 animals back to the rainforest.
“When I release a sloth, I feel really happy because the animal is where he belongs. That’s the ultimate goal of my work,” Pool said. “Wild animals belong in the wild.”