A little Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth is being hand-raised at Rosamond Gifford Zoo in New York. The young Sloth, a female, has named named Araña, the Spanish word for spider.
Says Zoo Director Ted Fox, “It is extremely rare for Sloths to be hand-reared, especially from such a very early age. The dynamic of our Sloth group led us to make the decision to hand-raise her, and we could not be more pleased with the remarkable success we have had.”
Born on August 1, Araña is the 49th Sloth baby to be born at the zoo, but the first to be hand-raised. Hand-raising a baby Sloth is not an easy task; zoos seldom choose to hand-raise Sloths, as past attempts have rarely been successful. But little Araña is thriving under very dedicated and careful attention, making the Rosamond Gifford Zoo the first known zoo in the United States to successfully hand-raise a Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth.
Photo credit: Rosamond Gifford Zoo / Jaime Alvarez
Hand-raised Sloth babies are typically habituated through hands-on contact with their keepers and supplemental feedings, but remain with their mothers. Other U.S. zoos have hand-reared the Linne’s Two-toed Sloth, and the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica has had success in hand-raising the Hoffmann’s.
“Our zoo has a long history with Hoffmann’s Two-toed sloths; the species first arrived here in 1983. I commend the animal staff for their excellent work in caring for Araña, particularly given her unique situation,” said County Executive Joanie Mahoney.
Sloths are adapted for life in the tree canopy in lowland and upland tropical forests, and are native to Central America and northern South America, including portions of Peru and central Brazil. They are nocturnal and the world's slowest mammal, typically sleeping 15 hours or more each day. They travel hand-over-hand through the tree tops up to 120 feet (36 m) off the ground, and only venture to the ground about once a week.
Hoffman's Two-toed Sloths have long and well-developed limbs with two long, curved claws on their front feet and three on their hind, which enable them to hang upside down from tree limbs. They have difficulty with mobility on the ground because they are physically incapable of truly walking, but are actually good swimmers using a type of overhand stroke.
Sloths are not on the endangered species list. However, their habitat is quickly being destroyed, leaving them homeless and vulnerable to a decrease in their population size. They are part of a Species Survival Plan, a collaborative effort between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and zoos around the world to help ensure their survival. These programs coordinate breeding between zoos, so that populations in captivity can retain healthy genetic diversity.