Meet the Flintstones!
August 02, 2014
Fred and Wilma are parents again! The pair of Two-Toed Sloths are residents of the South American Aviary at the Heidelberg Zoo in Heidelberg, Germany. On June 29th, the parents welcomed their third offspring. The sex of the new cub isn't known yet, but the baby's name will find its inspiration from the Flintstones, as were the rest of the family's names. Older siblings, Pebbles and Bam-Bam, have been successfully re-homed at zoos in France.
Sloths spend the first few weeks of their lives well hidden and sheltered close to the mother. By nature, sloths are solitary creatures, but parents, Fred and Wilma, have demonstrated a unique and intimate relationship. The South American Aviary of Heidelberg Zoo is furnished with natural vegetation, and Fred and Wilma are often seen sharing a tree branch close to each other.
Two-Toed Sloths have a gestation period of six months to a year. The mother gives birth to a single cub, while upside down. Normally, a male sloth will have no interaction with the female once the infant arrives. Zoos generally separate the mates for a time and place mother and child in isolation. However, Fred and Wilma have proven an exception to the rule. They have chosen to remain close throughout the process, and keepers at Heidelberg Zoo attest to the three cuddling so tight “it is difficult to see where a sloth begins and the other leaves off.”
In the wild, Two-Toed Sloths live in the canopy of the tropical rainforests from Central America to the Amazon Basin of Brazil in South America. Their sickle shaped claws enable the preference for hanging upside down in the branches of trees. Unable to walk, their means of ambulation is to pull themselves along tree branches, slowly, hand-over-hand. Two-Toed Sloths can sleep up to 20 hours a day, but once they begin movement, can reach a top speed of 4 to 5 meters per minute! They enjoy a diet of leaves, flowers and fruit. Once they have found a suitable place to feed, they will stay for up to three days in that area.
The “sloth” of the Two-Toed Sloth has an important purpose for the creature. Their main enemies in the wild are birds of prey, such as the Harpy Eagle, and large predatory cats, like the jaguar. The Sloth’s slow movement allows them easier camouflage in the trees.
The Two-Toed Sloth is not a threatened species, at this time. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, they are classified as LC (least concern). The Red List notes that Two-Toed Sloths are only hunted opportunistically, and there is no bush meat trade for them. Among some native groups in South America, there exists a taboo against consumption of sloth meat, thereby providing more assistance in their species preservation.