Our next stop was Boca de Valeria, Brazil. Boca de means “mouth of” and is an entrance of the Valeria River, located on the south bank on a 400ft hill and overlooking the Amazon. It is located between Parintins and Santarem.
The "mouth" of the Valeria River, the colorful Caboclo village contains a few wooden houses and an abundance of local wildlife, including monkeys, birds and several varieties of flora. Truly another world, this tiny Indian village is hidden amid jungle lakelands where the screeches of colorful parrots fill the air and trees stand waist-high in water. We got to observe Amazonian lifestyles up close and barter for local crafts, something we REALLY like to do. It seemed that the inhabitants, at least the females and the children, flocked to the shore and lined the path to “town” when we arrived. “Town” was just a line of homes on stilts with fishing gear and boats stored under the houses. I’m sure that all those stored items just float around the homes during the rainy season, but for now, all their animals took refuges from the heat under the shady homes.
Many of the children that lined the walkway, especially the very young, were dress in their native dance costume of very colorful feathers and material. They didn’t force themselves on us, but stood ready to have their picture taken for a small price. After all, this is about the only way the children can make any money. The adult males fish, hunt and offer boat rides up the tiny rivers to tourists, while the adult females try to sell the handicraft items they purportedly created. They were all very friendly.
The small boys, while not as “cute” as the dressed up girls, all seemed to have one kind of pet or another that they would pose for photos with. We were really surprised, especially after hearing that Sloths are endangered, that we saw at least two dozen sloths of various ages that the boys used as pets. Sloths seemed to be more popular than dogs or cats. Yes, we saw many dogs, but only one cat.
When I returned to the ship I had to research the sloth. Here you go:
The sloth is now found only in the Atlantic coastal rainforest of southeastern Brazil, although it was once also found further north.It has been identified predominantly from evergreen forests, although, being able to eat a wide range of leaves, it can also inhabit semi-deciduous and secondary forest. It is typically found in hot, humid climates without any dry season, and with annual rainfall of at least 47 inches.
Adult males have a total head-body length of 22 to 28 inches, with a tail about two inches long and a weight of 8.8 to 16.5 pounds. The sloth has very little muscle mass in comparison to other mammals its size. This reduced muscle mass allows it to hang from thin branches. Sloths are solitary diurnal animals, spending from 60–80% of their day asleep, with the rest more or less equally divided between feeding and travelling.They sleep in crotches of trees or by dangling from branches by their legs and tucking their head in between their forelegs. Sloths are folivores and feed exclusively on tree and liana leaves, especially Cecropia. Although individual animals seem to prefer leaves from particular species of tree, the species as a whole is able to adapt to a wide range of tree types. Individual maned sloths have reported to travel over a home range of 1.2 to 14.8 acres, with estimated population densities of 0.040 to 0.506/acre). Sloths rarely descend from the trees because, when on a level surface, they are unable to stand and walk, only being able to drag themselves along with their front legs and claws. They travel to the ground only to defecate or to move between trees when they cannot do so through the branches. The sloth's main defenses are to stay still and to lash out with its formidable claws, but it can swim well.
The mother gives birth to a single young, which initially weighs around 11 ounces and lacks the distinctive mane found on adults. The young begin to take solid food at two weeks, and are fully weaned by two to four months of age. The young leave the mother at between nine and eleven months of age. Although their lifespan has not been studied in detail, they have been reported to live for at least twelve years.
In 1955, the sloth occurred only in Bahia, Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro in eastern Brazil, in the Bahia coastal forests. It has declined since then as these forests have dwindled. The major threat to the sloth is the loss of its forest habitat as a result of lumber extraction, charcoal production, and clearance for plantations and cattle pastures. Excessive hunting is also a threat. I guess we can throw in “native children” as another threat, but they did seem to treat their “pet” sloths fairly well.
It was extremely humid (for we tourists), so after an hour of walking around “the village” we returned to the outer ship to buy a few items (yes, that IS our main purpose in life). I’m sure the villagers were happy to see us leave so they could take off all their clothes and relax (at least, that’s what I think they’d do).
On to Scarborough, Tobago and Trinidad.