As the world welcomes the newest member of the royal family, ZSL London Zoo celebrates a new addition of its own - an adorable two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus).
On Tuesday 30 April, after almost a year-long pregnancy, eager zookeepers witnessed the unique moment Marilyn welcomed the newest arrival to ZSL (Zoological Society of London) London Zoo.
ZSL sloth keeper Steve Goodwin said: “After Zoo vets performed an ultrasound they were able to confirm the youngster’s arrival was imminent. We kept a watchful eye on Marilyn throughout the day and at 8.45pm saw her baby safely delivered. Sloths are elusive animals, resting in the tops of trees, so to witness such a unique moment is very rare.
“Sloths have a long gestation period so the infants are already physically well-developed when they’re born. Incredibly, this means they are able to eat solid food right away. The baby is growing fast and is very inquisitive using its nose to sniff around for food.”
In amazing footage captured by zookeepers this week (Tuesday 7 May) the youngster gets its first taste of steamed carrots, a favourite of Marilyn’s, while clinging onto mum in its Rainforest Life home.
Information gathered from the birth will be recorded and added to the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), a database shared with zoos all over the world that helps zookeepers to compare important information on thousands of endangered species.
Keepers won’t know the youngster’s sex until confirmed by vets after hair DNA is analysed. Boy or girl, the newborn is a valuable addition to its species and once its sex is confirmed, its details will be added to the European Studbook (ESB), part of a coordinated breeding programme for two-toed sloths. Juveniles tend to stay with their mother for around 12 months before leaving their side.
In the meantime, keepers are keeping a close eye on both Marilyn and her 10-day-old baby, who they’ve named Elio, a Spanish name which derives from ‘Helios the sun god’ following the youngster’s sunset arrival.
The nocturnal mammals, native to South America, may be notoriously slow but they are impressive climbers - holding on to its mum will enable the infant to build up the valuable muscles needed to climb easily through the tree-top branches of its Rainforest Life home.
The youngster was also born with the two-toed sloth’s characteristically impressive claws, which will grow up to four inches in length and also help when the youngster is ready to move from tree to tree on its own.
Visit Marilyn, Elio and the whole incredible sloth family at ZSL London Zoo’s Rainforest Life.