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Creature Feature: A baby sloth for Salisbury

No, they’re not native to our peninsula (but wouldn’t it be cool if they were?!). Unlike most Creature Features, this one is about the newest addition to the Salisbury Zoological Park: a baby sloth, born on July 13 to two-toed sloth Buttercup and her partner Raven. 

A surprising discovery

The baby sloth–who is yet unnamed–was found during a morning check by Salisbury Zoo collection manager Ian Shelley.

“Sloths tend to sleep kind of curled up in balls, so you don’t see too clearly every morning,” Shelley said. “I was just doing morning checks one day, I saw there was a small amount of blood on the floor of their holding building, so I went and checked all of the sloths. Sure enough, clinging to the chest of one of the females was the baby.”

Baby sloth
Getting a picture of the baby sloth was difficult–they cling hard to their mothers, and since sloths tend to sleep in a curled-up position, the baby was all but buried in its mom, Buttercup.

Shelley said that the zoo is staying pretty hands-off while the mother and baby are adjusting to life together in the enclosure, which is why the baby’s sex is currently unknown. When the animal management team decides it’s time for a physical, then the baby’s sex will be revealed and, soon after, it will have a name. 

Shelley also said that while they suspected Buttercup might be pregnant, sloths don’t tend to “show” pregnancy the way humans and other mammals do. 

“Breeding them was our goal, that’s why we brought Raven down as part of the two-toed sloth species survival plan, he was sent here and recommended to breed with our females,” he said. “It wasn’t an enormous surprise, but we weren’t able to predict exactly when it was going to be.”

Raven the sloth
This is Raven, the baby’s father. The baby is thought to be both Raven and Buttercup’s first offspring.

The life of a sloth baby

Sloth baby is still nursing, and while it’s starting to experiment with solid foods, most of its sustenance comes from its mother. 

Sloths are nocturnal, so most of their time during the day is spent in their indoor holding pen.

…Maybe that’s why they weren’t so keen on waking up to have their pictures taken (although Shelley did compensate them with a big bucket of fruit for lunch). 

“Right now I’ve only actually seen the baby outside during the day on one occasion,” Shelley said. “The mother was trucking along on a branch and some visitors were able to observe mom and baby together.”

He says he can tell that the baby has ventured outside on more than one occasion, as he’ll perform morning checks and see that the baby is wet from nighttime rain showers. Unfortunately, because sloths are nocturnal and the baby is usually clinging to its mother’s side, visitors aren’t likely to see the sloth family outside during the day.

“Sloths are always extremely popular, which is complicated solely by the fact that a lot of people don’t see them,” Shelley said.

Pictured above is the zoo’s other female sloth. The baby mostly clings to Buttercup, but sometimes it’ll switch off between the two.

What’s next for the zoo

Don’t be too disappointed if you can’t catch a glimpse of the zoo’s latest addition–there are plenty of other exhibits featuring animals that range from alpacas to Andean bears. Plus, the zoo throws some pretty cool events, too. 

On August 31, the zoo will host a “Give a hoot!” fundraiser with food, beer, wine and live music. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged in order to repair the owl enclosure that was damaged after a tree fell on it during a recent storm. 

Birds need homes, too! (This one was squawking and peeking in the window of the sloth enclosure.)
Kristin is a writer and photographer in Ocean City, Maryland, and is the content manager for OceanCity.com and other State Ventures, LLC sites. She loves getting reader-submitted stories and photos, so send her an email anytime. She also works part-time at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Film Festival and lives just off the peninsula with her dog and fiancé. Her photos can be found on Instagram @oc_kristin.

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