Visitors to Hellabrunn Zoo might need a little patience to spot one of their newest residents. A Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth baby, with brown button eyes, can be seen clinging to protective mom Maya, high up in a tree in the middle of the Zoo’s Rhino House. Born on June 18, the new offspring is the first Two-toed Sloth born at Hellabrunn Zoo in four years.
The Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus) is native to Central and South America usually sleeps between 15 and 20 hours a day. Considering that they can live up to the age of 40, this means they sleep for almost 34 years of their lives.
In the wild, sloths live with their parents for about one to two years. Females become sexually mature at the age of three, while males do not attain maturity until the age of four to five.
Maya is a first-time mom, and the experienced father is 26-year-old Heinz. It is not yet known whether their new baby sloth is a boy or girl.
"Determining the sex of a sloth based on external features alone is subject to error. So it will probably take a while until we are 100 per cent certain of the sex of the pup", explained Carsten Zehrer, curator for sloths at Hellabrunn Zoo. Accordingly, the little sloth has not yet been given a name.
Two-toed Sloths are inhabitants of the rainforest. Like many of the other fauna and flora of this habitat, they are severely impacted by deforestation and the resulting loss of habitat.
Although sloth behavior is not fully understood, it is known that they spend most of their lives hanging upside down from tree branches. Sloths have a low calorie diet, which means they need to conserve the little energy they receive from their food – by moving very slowly and very little. However, sloths are surprisingly strong swimmers, provided they can reach water.
Unlike most other mammals that have hair parting on their heads or backs, the sloth's fur runs in the opposite direction – from belly to back – with the parting on the belly. This upside down hanging fur helps water run right off its body when it rains.