Local / Science

First sloth born at Virginia Zoo

Mom and baby cuddle at the Virginia Zoo. Photo by Virginia Zoo, used with permission.

NORFOLK, VA –  The Virginia Zoo has something to celebrate. The Zoo had its first sloth birth on Sunday, March 8, 2020. This two-toed sloth is the first offspring for mom, Honey, and dad, Mervin. Even though baby sloths are approximately 12-16 ounces when born, they are covered in fur, have nails and teeth and have their eyes open.

“The infant is doing really well, nursing from mom and eating small bites of cooked veggies from its mom and the Keepers,” said Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Veterinarian. “From birth, sloth babies learn to hang onto mom’s chest or stomach and will stay out of view to avoid detection from predators. For this reason, and to not disturb the bond between mom and baby, we stay hands off with the infant unless we have concerns. Our Keepers are monitoring mom and baby’s behavior closely as they bond and are skilled at identifying subtle changes in the animals.” added Dr. Clabbers.

The sloth family is in their exhibit together at the World of Reptiles and can be found sleeping most of the day and are more active at night. Baby sloths will stay with their mothers for 11 to 12 months, but the baby will start climbing off of mom around one month of age. In zoos, sometimes the babies will hang from the fathers as well at times, but fathers don’t generally play a part in helping to raise offspring.

The Virginia Zoo is auctioning naming rights of the sloth baby. The public can place bids on the infant’s name through April 23. To place yours, visit bidpal.net/virginiazoo. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Zoo’s Emergency Operating Fund, which will help support operations and ensure the Zoo has additional resources to go the extra mile for any areas of need.

About the Virginia Zoo

The Virginia Zoo, located in Norfolk, Virginia, is home to more than 700 exceptional animals representing over 100 fascinating species. Founded in 1901 and residing on 53 beautifully landscaped acres, the Virginia Zoo has demonstrated a commitment to saving and protecting the world’s wildlife by inspiring a passion for nature and taking conservation action at home and around the world. The Virginia Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in education, recreation, science, wildlife conservation, and animal care and welfare. For more than a century, the Zoo has connected adults, families and school children with the natural world and its wildlife. To learn more, visit www.virginiazoo.org.