The question most often asked at the Biodôme: Where’s the sloth?

Sloths - mother and offspring in Nature's Slowpokes habitat
Credit: Espace pour la vie (Claude Lafond)
Sloths - mother and offspring
The question most often asked at the Biodôme: Where’s the sloth?

Another beautiful day begins in the Biodôme’s hot, humid tropical rainforest. I’m already scanning the canopy, looking for a popular, but hard to observe, animal. Our first visitors arrive and ask: “Where’s the sloth?” Imagine their surprise when I say there are five of them. But the fact that there are that many doesn’t make the search any easier.

Observing sloths closer up

Last summer we installed two of our sloths (Choloepus didactylus) in a habitat specific to their needs during the Nature’s Slowpokes event. Trees were created specifically for this new environment, no more than four meters high and allowing the sloths to be seen from closer up. How wonderful: for the first time in my 23-year career at the Biodôme I could observe a sloth waking up! And that wasn’t the only surprise in store for me during that summer of getting closer to sloths.

New birth

Last year we noticed that one of the females was pregnant during her stay in the temporary habitat. At the end of the event the mother-to-be was returned to the Biodôme’s tropical rainforest. We detected the little one for the first time on December 17, thanks to footage captured by a video camera equipped with night vision and positioned high up in the tropical rainforest ecosystem. The pregnancy had lasted almost eleven months. Already the images captured on video showed the good care provided by the mother and the development of the baby over its first few weeks.

Medical examination

After five and a half months the Biodôme veterinarian did a general medical exam of the young one and its mother. The health of the newborns being fragile – because they’ve got little in the way of energy reserves, because they depend on their mother’s care, and because their immune system hasn’t developed yet – it was crucial that the checkup take place now. During the exam, the little one ate with gusto the pieces of apple, tofu and other food prepared for the occasion – a clear sign that everything was fine!

In addition to confirming the good health of mother and offspring, we learned that it was a little male weighing 2.69 kg!

Parental care to be discovered

This year, the habitat will welcome the mother and her six-month-old child. Whereas last year I had the pleasure of observing the sloth waking up, this year I hope to find answers to the following questions: Will I get to hear it make any sounds? Will the mother still nurse her little one? Will we be able to observe much grooming activity between mother and child? When she moves around, will the little one still be comfortably attached to her belly? Will he make us laugh, like all little animals? At what age will he become independent? Come help me discover the life of our tenth sloth born in captivity at the Biodôme!

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