Infant sloth born at Zoo Atlanta
Bonnie, an 18-year-old Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, gave birth to an infant on November 4, 2018. The newborn, who is the second offspring of Bonnie and 25-year-old male Cocoa, is doing well and is bonding with its mother in the sloths’ behind-the-scenes indoor area.
While sloths are famous for their slow movements, sloth development moves at a notably more rapid pace than the infancies of most other mammals. Following a lengthy gestation period of 11 to 12 months, newborn sloths are born fully-furred, with their eyes open and teeth already present, along with fully-developed claws for clinging to their mothers. Infants begin trying solid foods within two weeks of birth. They may continue to remain with or near their mothers for around a year.
“We’re delighted about the birth of Bonnie’s infant and are looking forward to sharing more about its growth and development,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “Animal adaptations make up some of the most fascinating educational facts we have to share with our guests. This is especially true of the sloth, an animal about which so much is unusual compared with other mammals.”
Bonnie’s infant was detected via ultrasound in October. At the time of the birth of Bonnie’s first infant, Raisin, in 2015, Zoo Atlanta was one of only a handful of zoos ever to successfully obtain an ultrasound with a sloth. Raisin now lives at another zoological organization.
Native to Central and South America, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths are not currently classified as endangered, but wild populations face threats as a result of habitat destruction, human encroachment and the pet trade. Lynn Yakubinis, a Lead Keeper at Zoo Atlanta, chairs the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) programs for Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths and Linne’s two-toed sloths. Zoo Atlanta is an active member of many SSP programs, which exist to protect the long-term viability of animal populations housed in accredited North American zoos by working to ensure that zoological populations remain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining for future generations.
Bonnie, Cocoa and the infant share their habitat with another adult female, 24-year-old Okra Mae. Sloths are not an especially social species, and males play no role in the rearing of their offspring.
Stay tuned for updates on when Members and guests will be able to see Bonnie and her infant.
(Photo by Patti Frazier)