FATHER’S DAY SURPRISE! SLOTH BORN AT ZOO ATLANTA
ATLANTA – June 19, 2023 – Cocoa, a 30-year-old Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth at Zoo Atlanta, became a dad again on Father’s Day with the birth of an infant to female Nutella on June 18, 2023. The infant is the first for 6-year-old Nutella.
The gestation period for sloths is unusually long for the animal kingdom at 11 to 12 months; however, pregnancies are not easily confirmed unless detected via X-ray or ultrasound. Although sloths are famous for their slow movements, sloth infants develop at a notably more rapid pace than do most other mammal babies. They are born fully furred, with their eyes open and teeth already present, and have fully developed claws for clinging to their mothers.
Zoo Atlanta’s Sloth Care Team and Veterinary Team has also confirmed that Bonnie, the other female in the Zoo’s sloth trio, is expecting an infant, due in coming weeks. Bonnie’s pregnancy was confirmed via X-ray and ultrasound during a recent physical exam; the newborn would be Bonnie’s third. Her two previous offspring, daughters Willow and Raisin, now live at other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos.
“We are delighted about the birth of Nutella’s infant, especially on Father’s Day,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “Among mammals, sloths are unusual in almost every way. Our ability to share their adaptations with our Members and guests is one of the many ways we have of creating connections that help our visitors understand that Earth’s biodiversity is vast, many-layered, and deserving of our protection.”
Native to Central and South America, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths are not currently classified as endangered, but wild populations face mounting threats due to human activities. In addition to challenges such as habitat loss for illegal logging, hundreds of sloths are electrocuted each year while attempting to use power lines to travel among fragmented forest patches. Based in Costa Rica, the Sloth Conservation Project is one of three programs supported by Zoo Atlanta’s 2023-2024 Quarters for Conservation initiative, which directs 25 cents of every general admission to projects for wildlife. In supporting this program, Zoo Atlanta is helping to bolster efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wild sloths impacted by deforestation and electrocution.
Nutella and Cocoa were recommended to breed by the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain healthy, genetically diverse, and self-sustaining animal populations in accredited zoos. Lynn Yakubinis, a Lead Keeper at Zoo Atlanta, coordinates AZA-wide SSP programs for both Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths and Linne’s two-toed sloths.
Nutella and her infant may be seen daily, weather permitting, in the Zoo’s summer sloth habitat located in the KIDZone. Plan a visit or learn more at zooatlanta.org.
(photo: Channing M.)
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About Zoo Atlanta
A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education, and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include the African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, bontebok, warthogs, meerkats and rhinos; Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the newly restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama; and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Plaza. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.