Last spring, one of our adult female sloths, Rose, unexpectedly passed away, leaving her 8-week-old baby orphaned. We were all saddened by the loss of Rose, and very worried that baby Xeno had lost his mother.
At the Aquarium, we typically respect the natural process of life by letting mothers care for their babies as much as possible. Because young sloths remain dependent on their mothers for food and comfort during their first year of life, our animal care staff knew that Xeno was going to need extra special care in order to grow into a successful adult sloth.
For the past several months, the Rain Forest staff and Animal Care team have come together to give little Xeno the best chance of survival, which meant round-the-clock care that included a special diet, daily veterinary checkups and even some coddling, because baby sloths physically cling to their mothers.
Words alone can’t describe how much love and care was put into helping Xeno grow! The video below shares our amazing story of raising Xeno:
Xeno is now 7 months old and is continuing to develop into a strong and healthy sloth. Our staff is no longer handling Xeno. He is currently living in a new enclosure in the Aquarium’s Rain Forest that will help introduce him to the environment. We are cautiously optimistic that he will soon join our other two-toed sloths as a permanent resident in our Upland Tropical Rain Forest!
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Every morning the Aquarium’s Rainforest staff takes inventory of the animals since most of them have a free range of the habitat each day. It is often a challenge to locate all three of the Rainforest sloths since they hide in the trees. On one particular morning they were conspiring together on the back wall, which is a very rare sight!
Clockwise they are; Deb (Aquarium staff), Syd, Ivy, and Howie. Hmm, what were those sloths up to?
Sloth social behaviors are poorly understood and observations of this sort assist us in developing a greater understanding of sloth biology. We know that they are generally considered solitary animals, but some species of sloths have been seen occupying the same desirable trees and sleep spots in the wild. Often our Rainforest sloths can be seen alone or near just one other, so this sighting was a very interesting observation.
So, why were they? It may be that all three sloths were getting too warm in the treetops and retreated to cooler air. It is a possibility that it was simply coincidental, and after their nightly dinner exhibit rounds they ended up together by daybreak. It may even mean that the sloths were engaging in another hoped for reproductive event!
Look for Howie’s large and very sharp ‘canine-like’ premolars. Sloths were at one time called Edentates, or toothless mammals. Today they are correctly referred to as Xenarthrans (which is why our baby sloth has been named Xeno), a taxonomic group that also includes armadillos and anteaters. If you look at Ivy’s feet you will notice that the hind foot has three toes/claws and the front foot has two toes/claws. Two toed sloths are sometimes referred to as two-fingered sloths for this reason.
We are thrilled to welcome the newest addition to the Upland Tropical Rain Forest – a two-toed sloth born in late February.
While escorting a sleepover group through the Upland Tropical Rain Forest, a member of the Aquarium’s education team noticed the new addition. The next day it was confirmed that Rose, one of three adult sloths living in the exhibit, had given birth to her second infant. The newborn joins its older brother, Howie, who was the first sloth born at the National Aquarium in September 2008.
The new baby has been clinging to its mother, and aquarists suspect it will remain that way for several weeks. At this time the sex of the baby is undetermined. At birth it was approximately 8 inches long and fully haired with its trademark claws. As time goes on, the young sloth will begin exploring its immediate surroundings and eating solid foods. Sloths can remain dependent on their mothers for up to one year. Our animal care staff will respect the natural process and allow Rose to care for her baby.
Continue reading ‘New addition to the sloth family’
From Ken Howell: Curator of Rain Forest exhibits
We are very excited to announce a new addition to our Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit!
Earlier in September, during the daily check-up of our two-toed sloths, we found that Rose had given birth to an infant. The infant, approximately 8 inches long at birth, was born fully haired and already has its trademark claws. The baby sloth is actively clinging and crawling about on its mom, and looks strong and healthy.
This birth of a baby sloth, the first for the Aquarium, was certainly a ‘hoped for’ event but wasn’t planned. Despite the fact that the two-toed sloth is fairly common, many of its most basic life history facts are still a mystery. The discrepancy is due to the fact that actual mating is rarely observed.
Continue reading ‘From the Curator: A baby in the Rain Forest!’
Staff members in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest welcomed a new scarlet ibis to their collection of birds earlier this week. This beautiful South American bird came to the National Aquarium from the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
The scarlet ibis is hard to miss! Adults are bright red or scarlet, with somewhat lighter shading on the head, neck, and underparts. The long legs of this wading bird are pink, and the toes are partially webbed. They use their long, curved, pinkish-brown bill to probe the mudflats, shallow water, and grasses in search of food.