After mum Marilyn’s nearly yearlong pregnancy, keepers at ZSL London Zoo finally caught a glimpse of her new little one that was born on February 12. Keepers spotted the new Two-toed Sloth infant, being cradled by mum, as they made their morning rounds.
ZSL sloth keeper, Steve Goodwin, said, “We saw two big brown eyes peering out through mum’s fur, and on closer inspection, we were delighted to see a healthy-looking youngster tucked into her tummy.”
“Sloths have a long gestation period, so the infants are already physically well-developed when they’re born. Incredibly, this means they are able to eat solid food right away. However, juveniles tend to stay with their mother for around 12 months before leaving their side - they’re a very ‘clingy’ species in general; to trees and to their mum.”
Keepers won’t know the youngster’s sex until vets scan it, as there aren’t many obvious external differences between males and females. Boy or girl, the newborn is a valuable addition to its species and once its sex is confirmed, its details will be added to the European Studbook (ESB), which is part of a coordinated breeding programme for Two-toed Sloths.
In the meantime, keepers report that they are keeping a close eye on both Marilyn and her one-month-old baby, who they’ve nicknamed Lento, which means ‘slow’ in Spanish.
“Marilyn is doing an excellent job as a mum,” says Steve. “The baby is growing fast and is very inquisitive – we’ve spotted some brave attempts to clamber over mum’s head, using her as a climbing frame and grabbing at the trees!”
Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus didactylus) are nocturnal mammals that are native to South America. Although notoriously slow, they are impressive climbers. Holding on to its mum will enable ZSL London Zoo’s new infant to build up the valuable muscles needed to climb easily through the tree-top branches of its Rainforest Life home.
The new youngster was also born with the Two-toed Sloth’s characteristically impressive claws, which will grow up to four inches in length and also help when the youngster is ready to move from tree to tree on its own.
Guests can visit new mum, Marilyn, and the whole incredible sloth family at ZSL London Zoo’s Rainforest Life, while journeying through the Zoo’s brand new Superpowers Trail. Find out more at: www.zsl.org