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Slothfully fascinating

Warmer weather is here, which means it’s time to see the sloths in their outdoor habitat! Hoffman’s two-toed sloths Bonnie (age 22), Nutella (age 5), and Cocoa (age 29) all call Zoo Atlanta their home, and while sloths are not primates, they fall under the care of our Primate Team here at Zoo Atlanta. During the wintertime, the sloths are housed in an indoor habitat, and once the temperatures warm up, they get to move to their outdoor habitat and enjoy the sun! Hoffman’s two-toed sloths originate from Central and South America and are found in the rainforest canopy where they enjoy the direct sunlight. Sloths have the lowest body temperature of any mammal and due to their low muscle mass, they cannot shiver. Therefore, to regulate body temperature, they move in and out of the sunlight. 

When visiting the Zoo, sometimes you will see Bonnie up high in the habitat basking in the sun. If you can’t see Bonnie there, check the back shelves of the habitat, where I am sure you will find one if not all of the sloths during the day. Each of the sloths at different times tend to spend their time in different locations throughout the habitat. If you are lucky enough, you may catch Nutella sunbathing tucked into the shrub that is at the front of the habitat. When the sloths get too warm, they may venture back into the shade or take advantage of some cool mist that goes off throughout the day to help cool them down.

Some other cool and fun sloth information is that sloths are the world’s slowest mammals, allowing for tons of organisms to live on them. They have an entire ecosystem living in their fur, made up of insects, algae, and fungi. How cool is that?! The sloths benefit from these organisms because they create a green camouflage that serves as the best defense against predators. Sloth fur is a great home to six different species of moths. These moths are only found in sloth fur and without the sloth, these moths could not exist. Sloths descend from tree canopies about once a week to use the bathroom. Once the sloth defecates, the moths will then crawl onto the fresh dung to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feeds on the sloth dung. The larvae will then develop into moths which then will fly into the trees to find a sloth to call their home. So, if you ever spot a green sloth covered in moths in the wild, know that’s a healthy sloth with a world of crawly friends living in its fur!

After learning these cool facts about them, I hope you want to come and pay them a visit during your next Zoo adventure. Bonnie, Nutella, and Bonnie can be viewed in their outdoor habitat near the Endangered Species Carousel until the beginning of fall – come check them out!

(photo: Bridget F.)

Bridget F.
Keeper I, Primates

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl