Visitor captures incredible moment sloth gives birth!
When Erica Huggins and her family arrived for their first visit to Drusillas Zoo Park in Sussex, they hoped to be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the sloths, but what happened far exceeded expectations as they witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event – the incredible birth of a baby sloth.
On 23rd August, Erica, her husband and their two children were exploring the zoo’s walk-through enclosure when ex-veterinary nurse Erica noticed a ‘glistening’ whilst admiring the sloths and was quick to pull out her camera to capture the amazing moment.
Erica commented: “The process was extremely quick lasting a few minutes at most. I noticed a strange glistening membrane at the sloth's rear, so I stayed to investigate. As I turned to get a better view, I noticed her push out the baby, which was still within her amniotic sac, the mother quickly turned licked off the membrane and started to care for her baby.”
Visitors and staff were stunned to see such a rare moment and the video captured shows the moments after the baby emerged and mum Halina tenderly licking her new infant clean.
Sloth pregnancies are notoriously difficult to predict due to the anatomy of the sloth keeping abdomen swelling to a minimum and famously spend most of their time curled up in a big, hairy ball, so keepers at Drusillas (many of whom have worked with sloths for decades) have not themselves witnessed a sloth being born.
Erica continued: “We were looking forward to seeing the sloths as of all the parks we’ve visited this would be the first time we would experience seeing them in real life. We were excited to learn that we could walk through the enclosure and have a close-up encounter. As soon as we walked in we were informed to look straight up as the two adult Sloths were directly above us relaxing in the branches. The children struggled to see them up high and went off to explore the rest of the enclosure with my husband, whilst I stood back to take a closer look. Within a few moments, I noticed something was happening and called the children, my husband, and the member of staff over.”
“It was a privilege to witness the birth, the event has ignited a newfound admiration of sloths. My husband and I feel absolutely delighted to witness such a rare and important event. We hope mother and baby are doing well.”
The new arrival is especially precious to the team at Drusillas who sadly and suddenly lost their infant sloth, Athena, at just six months old last year. The zoo now holds five Linne’s two-toed sloths, including seven-year-old Flash who was hand-reared by the Park’s resident sloth specialists, Mark Kenward and Gemma Romanis.
Head Keeper, Gemma Romanis, added; “We are absolutely thrilled to bits to share this exciting news with you all, the new arrival is something we are immensely proud of as a team. Baby seems to be thriving under the careful watch of our keepers, and is doing everything it should be at this stage. Halina is being wonderfully attentive, and is more than happy for us to do our checks on baby when we need to. We don’t yet know if it’s a boy or a girl.”
“We are so surprised that Halina chose to give birth right by the public walkway of her enclosure. It shows how comfortable and safe she must feel, and is testament to how respectful and lovely our visitors are when they come to see our sloths.”
The delightful youngster is already becoming a highlight for visitors lucky enough to catch a glimpse of baby peacefully snuggled into mum, in one of the Zoos walkthrough enclosures.