Today is International Sloth Day! The Cincinnati Zoo is home to two Linnaeus’s two-toed sloths, Lightning and Moe. Moe, our male, is 22 years old and Lightning, our female, recently turned nine years old. This year’s celebration is bittersweet after Lightning and Moe’s first baby was stillborn earlier this month. She is currently being cared for by a team in the Animal Ambassador Center (AAC) at the Cincinnati Zoo. Caregivers are providing her space and time to heal before eventually rejoining Moe in the Zoo’s Discovery Forest.
While our sloths are fairly easy to spot (you’re likely to find them both sleeping in their favorite tree hammocks, munching on enriching fruit treats, and moving about their habitats at a lethargic pace of 8-15 feet per minute), wild sloths can be a bit trickier. Their slow movement and camouflaged coloration (aided by algae that grows in their hair, giving it a greenish hue) can help them blend seamlessly into their native forest habitat in South America.
These animals are majority herbivores relying on vegetation and plant life for survival. In the wild sloths are nocturnal animals who eat mainly leaves, fruit, nuts, berries, bark and are known to occasionally eat insects. They spend much of their solitary lives high up in the canopy of the rainforest away from predators like jaguars, birds of prey, and large snakes. These animals are rarely prey in the wild, however, threats still remain to their wild populations in the form of habitat destruction from deforestation as well as hunting.
The leisurely sloths in our care serve as ambassadors for their species in the wild. In fact, the Cincinnati Zoo has partnered with The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI) to research, study, rehabilitate, and release sloths back into an eco-tourism destination in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. As you make connections with Moe and Lightning, we hope they inspire you to consider how to take action to help conserve sloths and other species like them. One way that you can support sloths is by supporting conservation groups such as TSI and the Sloth Conservation Foundation. One easy way to do that is by signing up for educational programs to learn more about these and other species that the Zoo supports in the wild, donating to habitat protection, and trying to decrease human activity within their habitat by making choices that would positively affect their natural habitat such as purchasing sustainably grown rainforest products. By supporting these various conservation efforts, we can support Moe and Lightnings’ wild cousins.