Zoo Heidelberg

‘The Force’ is with Zoo Heidelberg’s New Sloth

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Fred and Wilma are parents again! The pair of Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloths at Zoo Heidelberg, in Germany, welcomed a male offspring on July 31st.

The Zoo recently sought out a name for the hairy baby, and fans of the Zoo submitted their suggestions via Facebook. As a bit of an homage to the popular Wookie warrior of Star Wars, Chewbacca, the young sloth is now known as “Chewy”!

Chewy and him mom, Wilma, can be seen in the Zoo’s South America Aviary cruising much slower than 'lightspeed', upside down in the trees.

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Photo Credits: Heidrun Knigge (Image 1) ; Zoo Heidelberg (2-4)

The Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus), also known as the Southern Two-toed Sloth or Unau, is a species from South America. They are found in Venezuela, the Guyanas, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil (north of the Amazon).

They are solitary, nocturnal and arboreal—preferring to reside in rainforests. This species of sloth can swim, which enables them to cross rivers and creeks with some ease.

They cannot walk (they pull hand-over-hand to maneuver) and therefore spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees. Their fur grows greenish algae to camouflage them in their surroundings. Their body temperature depends partially on ambient temperature; they cannot shiver to keep warm, due to their unusually low metabolic rate.

The Two-toed Sloth eats primarily leaves, but will also feed on shoots, fruits, nuts, berries, bark, flowers, and an occasional rodent.

They have a gestation period of about 10 months. They mother will give birth hanging upside down. The young are born with claws and are weaned after about a month. They remain with the mother for several more months, and do not reach sexual maturity until the age of three.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their main enemies are large birds of prey (harpy, crested eagle) and wild cats (ocelot, jaguar).

Sea Lion Shenanigans at Zoo Heidelberg

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Zoo Heidelberg, in Germany, now has the pleasure of witnessing the daily antics of two new Southern Sea Lion pups!

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Sea Lion pups_ZooHeidelberg_4Photo Credits: Susi Fischer

The girl, ‘Arielle’, and boy, ‘Carlos’ were born in July.  Arielle was born to mother, Maike, much to the relief of the keepers, who had previously witnessed two of Maike’s stillbirths.  Carlos is the third pup born to mother, Leah, and both Sea Lion babies were sired by Atos.

The Sea Lion pups spent their first few weeks of life on land.  After their first molt, the pups began to follow their mothers into the water and start swimming lessons. Arielle and Carlos enjoy daily ventures into the pool and practice their Sea Lion skills with diligence.  As they grow, it will become easier for them to remain under water for longer periods of time.

Southern Sea Lions are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.  They are native to South America, along the Pacific coast of South America, from Peru to Tierra del Fuego, and along the Atlantic coast to southern Brazil.  Zoo Heidelberg works in cooperation with Yaqu-PACHA, (Society for the Protection of Aquatic Mammals in South America), in an effort to protect these wonderful creatures in their native habitat.

Meet the Flintstones!

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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.

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Photo Credits: Thomas Bersch

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.”

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There's Something Very Unique About This Skunk Kit!


The union of two young Skunks last November at Germany's Zoo Heidelberg has produced five offspring! The five lively "Stinktierkinder" (German for baby Skunks!) were born on April  28. Mother "Chanel" has kept her offspring well hidden and lovingly cared for in the birth den. The pups are just now beginning to explore their enclosure. "Chanel" has a lot to be proud of with her growing litter, but perhaps especially notable is that one of the five kits was born with white fur and red eyes, an albino! Albinism occurs in humans and in almost all animal species. Albino people and animals suffer from sensitivity to UV light and blurred vision. In the wild, the albino girl would have no chance of survival. Perhaps the biggest problem for wild animals, is they are more easily recognized as prey.




One of the snow white girl's siblings chases a toy around the exhibit...


Playful Meerkat Trio Joins the Family at Zoo Heidelberg

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Zoo Heidelberg's Meerkat family has grown again, for the second time this year. In early October, three pups were born. Born naked, blind and helpless, the pups have developed much over the past few weeks and now can be seen running around outside the den with the zoo's other 15 Meekats. The three young pups are very wild and playful, developing the skills that they would need in the wild to be successful foragers and hunters.

Meerkats, endemic to the desert of southern Africa, are members of the mongoose family. They live in social colonies in underground burrows and tunnels that help to protect them against the harsh sun. These groups always follow a structured system of rank: only the dominant male and female reproduce, while the others help out as babysitters. Some members of the colony act as scouts that cry out to warn each other if a predator, like a hawk, is spotted. Even though there aren't any serious predators at Heidelberg Zoo, the zoo's Meerkats still show this behavior.  

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Meerkat 5Photo credits: Peter Bastian (1-4); Heidrun Knigge (5)

Although small, Meerkats are skilled hunters and can kill prey up to the size of a lizard or bird. At the zoo, the Meerkats are presented with a healthy variety of fruits as well as animal foods. Their favorite treat is a sprinkling of mealworms: they love to scratch and dig around until every last one has been found. 

Poitou Donkey Foal Delights Visitors at Zoo Heidelberg

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Visitors to Zoo Heidelberg have a treat in store: a playful young Poitou Donkey. The boisterous little foal is male and was born at the end of June born to mother Resi, who is devoted to her baby.  He is spirited, healthy and growing fast, thanks to a large appetite for his mother's milk. 

The strange-looking contraption pictured below is the donkeys' grooming station. They love to rub up against the wire bristles; it gives them a great massage, scratches any annoying bug bites, and cleans off clumps of old fur from the long coats. If the grooming station is occupied, then their second favorite pastime is digging around in the dirt. 

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Photo credits: Peter Bastian / Heidelberg Zoo

Poitou Donkeys are a originally from the Poitou-Charentes region of western France. They were bred to be a strong, hardy working animals, and were even used to pull fire-trucks before mechanization. In the 18th century, it was common to breed these donkeys with mares (female horses) to create patient and durable working mules.  As use of machines for farming and transportation became commonplace, the number of Poitou Donkeys decreased significantly. We can still see these animals today because of targeted conservation measures with growers and regional conservation organizations. 

A Watery Romp with Asian Small-Clawed Otter Pups

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Zoo Heidelberg's young Asian Small-Clawed Otters are all play! Born last November, the two pups are healthy but not quite hardy enough to stay outside in the cold. After swimming, running and jumping, they snuggle up in their warm indoor enclosure. 

The newborns each weighed a miniscule 1.8 ounces (50 grams) at birth. Completely dependent on parental care, Asian Small-Clawed otter pups are born naked and are blind until they open their eyes at six weeks old. At seven weeks, they begin to play and explore. The young otters reach maturity at two years, but may stay with their parents to help raise the next litter. Breeding pairs form strong bonds and mate for life. 


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Photo Credits: Zoo Heidelberg

Asian Small-Clawed Otters are the smallest of otters. They have a wide range, from southern India through the Philippines and southern China. Mostly a freshwater species, they spend more time on land than other otters do. Their feet have two unusual traits: their short claws do not extend past the pads of their feet, and they do not have webbing between their toes. These adaptations help them to forage underwater for snails, crabs and other invertebrates along the bottom. Small-Clawed Otters are often welcome in rice paddies because eat crop pests like crabs. 

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