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Learning more about sloths

Hi! I’m Channing, and I’m one of the newest faces on the Small African Primate and Sloth Care Team. Prior to moving to Atlanta, I was a Hoofstock and Elephant Keeper at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. While I miss working with hoofstock and elephants, I am excited to learn more about primates (and sloths, which are not primates but which fall under the care of our team) and the seemingly very strong personalities of all of our individuals here at the Zoo.  

Sloths are native to rainforests in Central and South America, such as Costa Rica and Panama. Since they live in the rainforests which unsurprisingly have a lot of rain, their hair is usually soaking wet to the point that fungi and algae are commonly seen growing and also keeps their skin very moist. Additionally, these algae and fungi help them to camouflage into the treetops by turning them from a grey/brown color to a green color. While this may be lucky happenstance for the sloths, this color change can be very helpful in hiding them from predators such as harpy eagles and big cats. Amazingly, some of the species of fungi and algae found growing on sloths’ hair can help prevent certain types of bacteria, parasites, and even cancer! Proving once again how being constantly wet is beneficial for sloths in many ways. Can you imagine being covered in fungi and algae as a way to stay healthy like sloths?  

Although it is very humid in Atlanta, it is not as humid as the rainforest! Since Zoo Atlanta is not located in the tropical rainforest, we must provide additional care to help mimic the sloths’ natural habitat to the best of our ability. One of the ways you may see us caring for our sloths is by misting them with water multiple times a day, either by hand or with an automatic mister, to help them maintain the level of humidity their skin needs. However, no matter how much we mist them, we’re unlikely to ever keep them moist enough to cause algae growth, but that’s okay because living in the Zoo affords them excellent healthcare to where they don’t need to grow their own healthcare on their bodies. Depending on the humidity, the weather and the time of year, the amount we need to mist our sloths could change.  

On Sunday, June 18, we welcomed the fourth member of our sloth snuggle. Nutella is a first-time mom and Cocoa became a father again on Father’s Day. Bonnie, our other adult female, is also pregnant and we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of a second infant. All members of our sloth family are currently out on habitat in the KIDZone, weather permitting.

This year, The Sloth Conservation Project is one of Zoo Atlanta’s Quarters for Conservation projects. By visiting Quarters for Conservation – Zoo Atlanta you can cast your vote for sloths to win the grant fund and help this organization save and release sloths and other native animals back into the wild to maintain a healthy population!  

(photo: Jodi Carrigan)

Channing M.
Keeper I, Primates

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl