Animals

U.K. Zoo Welcomes First Baby Sloth in Nearly a Century

The tiny slow-mover was born to a first-time mother.

Drusillas Park, in East Sussex, United Kingdom announced this week the arrival of something special: a baby two-toed sloth, the zoo's first in 91 years of operation.

The tiny slow-mover was born March 26 to proud (presumably) parents Sophocles, the father, and Sidone, the mother.

Sloths Pose For Conservation: Photos

According to the zoo, the newbie is just the fourth sloth baby in the U.K. in the past year.

"With very few sloths born in captivity, every new arrival is important to further our knowledge of these beautiful and mysterious animals," said Mark Kenward, the park's head keeper, in a statement.

Sidone is a first-time mother, said the zoo. She and Sophocles have been together since 2014, but, true to their slothful (as it were) nature, they took a long time to mate.

VIDEO: Sloths Are A Walking Ecosystem!

Zoo staff had readied themselves, in case the new baby would need to be hand-reared. But, by all accounts, Sidone is doing fine in her first days of motherhood.

"She hasn't put a foot wrong, or even two toes," said Kenward.

Sloths are so photogenic that they have been recruited to serve as animal ambassadors for Suriname, a country in northern South America. The laid back animals are also helping out The Guiana Shield, a tropical wilderness region known as The Guiana Shield.

Rebecca Field, video production manager at Conservation International, made this effort possible by traveling to Green Heritage Fund Suriname, which is essentially a sloth orphanage run by Monique Pool.

Field said, "When we arrived at her house, we quickly became 'slothified' -- a term Monique came up with to describe her situation. It means "overwhelmed by sloth."

Sloth in a bowl, anyone?

Life was not always so happy for this little guy. Kevin Connor, media manager for Conservation International, told Discovery News that sloths like this, before their rescue by Pool, "had gradually been migrating into one forest patch, an undeveloped area of the city that was finally being cut down."

When exposed to human kindness, the natural friendliness and curiosity of sloths often is evident. Here, the sloth looks to be reaching out to the viewer, but this would have really been the photographer, Becca Field.

Sloths frequently form bonds with humans. Like primates, sloths will sometimes cling to humans similar to the way that infants do.

Russ Mittermeier, seen here, is the president of Conservation International. He and others are interested in Suriname. Connor explained its importance. "This country, roughly the size of Florida, contains 25 percent of the world's remaining intact forest."

The word "sloth" is synonymous with laziness, but these animals are just conserving precious energy reserves when they lounge around like this.

Leaves are their main source of nutrition, but leaves provide little energy and can be difficult to digest.

This sloth seems to be looking at the camera, but it is likely interacting with Field.

She said, "Since the day I first laid eyes on a sloth, I have been obsessed. How could I not be? They're adorable, gentle, slow-moving creatures with irresistible smiles."

As an ambassador for Suriname, helping to draw attention to the nation's wildlife, this individual has much to be proud of, as evident in this photo. Connor explained, "Monique's organization, along with CI, is working to show the value that these animals have as a tourist attraction in order to get them their own park in the region."

"Sloths -- being, in my opinion, the cutest of all forest dwellers -- make great ambassadors for the forests of the Guiana Shield," Field said. "Like all of us, they depend on the forest to survive and thrive. They spend virtually all their time in the treetops -- eating, sleeping and even giving birth in the trees. The more time I spent with them, the more I learned firsthand why it is so important we conserve areas like the Guiana Shield."

Sloths seem to love positive attention and will respond with all sorts of cute poses. Here an individual tilts its head affectionately for Field.

"The forests might be homes to the sloths, but they also provide us with many of the things we need to survive and thrive: clean air, fresh water, a stable climate and countless other benefits, both mental and physical," Field said. "Together, with the sloths as our inspiration, we can help conserve what is important to us all."