Many utilities around the world deal with various animal mitigation issues in National Park Preserves. These are ecologically sensitive locations with specific flora and fauna that are native to these areas. In some cases, certain species are considered endangered which creates special challenges to the utility in prevention of potential wildlife electrocutions as the animals traverse electrical power lines.
One such case is that of the sloth.
Sloths live almost exclusively in Central and South America in tropical rain forests. Due to their slow nature and diet, sloths are typically found hanging from and climbing tree branches. As a result, it is not uncommon for a sloth to find itself on an overhead electrical power line. Their claws are long and strong and specially adapted to hanging upside down on tree limbs or overhead lines!
Some sloth species have strong populations, while others are listed as vulnerable or endangered. The pygmy three-toed sloth is considered endangered.
This is an example of a Sloth sleeping upside down.
ESPH (Electrical Power Public Services for Heredia), with the inspiration and direction of Mr. Luis Diego Carballo, sought out friendly wildlife control technology for fauna in Heredia. Heredia is a large Province north of the capital of San Jose, Costa Rica, known for its diverse environmental landscapes including mountain forests, national parks, river valleys, and nature preserves. ESPH manages the power transmission and distribution networks for this vast region.
The motivation for the project was to see if it would be possible to prevent sloths from traversing power lines and accidentally creating an outage by touching two energized devices (such as a phase connector or terminals on a transformer) with their body. When that happens, the high voltage can kill the sloth and damage the electrical equipment, resulting in a power outage.
This creates multiple problems for the utility. First, the outage may occur in a heavily forested or other remote area, making the repair hard to service and extending the time of the outage. Secondly, and just as importantly, the animal is dead or seriously injured and needs rescue. Finally, the public reputation of the utility is damaged as sloths have a strong public acceptance throughout the region and any killing of these animals is not permitted.
ESPH, with cooperation from the Toucan Rescue Ranch (an animal rehabilitation unit) for testing and support service, as well as 3rd party test audits and oversight from SINAC (the Costa Rican environmental agency), set out to apply Critter Guard’s Line Guard on a “test” overhead line that was judged to be typical of what a sloth would encounter in their native habitat. It was necessary that in the search for effective, humane wildlife control supplies, the ESPH did not cause unusual activities in wild animals and that any contact with wildlife remained as natural as possible.
The implementation of Critter Guard’s Line Guard was part of the commitment that the ESPH has for biodiversity and sustainable development, seeking to impact as little as possible the environment in which it provides services.
The Line Guard device from Critter Guard has two free-rolling anti-jump wheels that act as a barrier at both ends and five free-rolling rollers. These devices are created from proprietary components and are injection molded from polypropylene that is claw resistant, UV resistant, and environmentally friendly.
See a brief video on this page showing the Line Guard successfully repelling the sloth.
Due to the success of the project, the ESPH is currently planning on implementing Critter Guard’s Line Guard product in the highlands of San Rafael and San Isidro, where many sloths are found.
"The device acts as a barrier to prevent animals, including sloths, from crossing power lines and thus pre-vent them from having access to any specific equipment, in addition to preventing them from having or causing an accident on their way," said Luis Diego Carballo, ESPH Project Leader.
Critter Guard's core products include the Line Guard, Pole Guard, and BirdBloc. Our products prevent many types of animals ranging from squirrels and rats to sloths and monkeys from accessing critical electrical equipment and homes via overhead power lines and utility poles.