16 March 2023

Slow much love for mum  

Mother’s Day – Sunday 19 March 

Zookeepers at London Zoo have shared a tender moment between the conservation zoo’s Rainforest Life matriarch, two-toed sloth Marilyn, and her three-month-old baby, Nova.  
The two-toed sloths (Choloepus didactylus) at the conservation zoo have taken to family life with ease since baby Nova’s arrival on New Years’ Day, with keepers revealing that the tiny sloth is developing well and growing fast.  

Sloth mum Marilyn with baby Nova at London Zoo

Sloth keeper Veronica Heldt said: “Like all new mums will attest to this Mother’s Day, personal space does not exist with a newborn - since Nova’s birth, mum and baby have been inseparable, with Nova spending most of their time clinging to Marilyn’s tummy, where they’ll stay firmly attached for at least another 9 months, until strong enough to swing solo.”   
“The parent-child relationship is really important to baby sloths’ development,” Veronica added. “Nova is already picking up important skills and behaviours from Marilyn, learning what’s best to eat, for example – steamed parsnip is a particular favourite at the moment.” 
Despite sloths’ placid reputation, keepers have spotted the young sloth’s cheeky side, catching Nova taking food straight out of mum’s claws. 
Like all the animals in London Zoo’s Rainforest Life - the capital's only living rainforest - two-toed sloths have adapted over millennia to their unique lifestyles: for sloths like Marilyn and Nova, their internal organs, heart, spleen, and liver are all arranged to accommodate living upside-down. Nova’s development will continue at pace over the next few months, when keepers will also discover Nova’s sex – after a few hairs have been sent off by the zoo’s veterinary team for DNA analysis. 

Nova was born Marilyn at the ZSL conservation zoo

Nova is the eighth baby born to Marilyn at the ZSL conservation zoo, as part of a European breeding programme for the species, with all her little ones having grown up and flown the nest over the years - moving to other conservation zoos across Europe after being matched with the perfect mates.  
“As a mother of eight, Marilyn has seen her fair share of Mother’s Days at the conservation zoo,” Veronica added. “Every birth has been a conservation success, so this Mother’s Day we’ll be celebrating Marilyn and all the other animal parents at the zoo – all are vital to ZSL’s work preserving and protecting wildlife.”   
Meanwhile, ZSL conservationists are working with the Critically Endangered pygmy three-toed sloth on Escudo Island, off the coast of Panama, to track their range and the threats they’re facing in their sole island home.  
Sloths have evolved for millions of years in a relatively stable climatic environment and are vulnerable to even small changes in temperature and weather - unlike many other mammals, sloths are unable to regulate their own body temperature, and so are particularly threatened by the global issue of climate change. As well as working on the ground to protect threatened species around the world, scientists and conservationists from ZSL, the conservation charity behind London Zoo, are urging world leaders to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change in unison in order to save our planet.     
The perfect family day out this Mother’s Day, visitors to London Zoo can hang out with Marilyn and Nova and Sumatran tiger Gaysha and cubs Crispin and Zac, as well as many more zoo parents and youngsters, as they explore the iconic London Zoo.

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  • Marilyn the sloth at London Zoo
    Choloepus didactylus

    Linne's two-toed sloth

    A sloths’ internal organs, such as the heart, spleen, and liver are all arranged to accommodate living upside-down. 

  • Adult sloth hanging from a tree at London Zoo
    London’s only living rainforest

    Rainforest Life

    Step into London's only living rainforest, with trees filled with monkeys, snoozing sloths and bats flying overhead!

  • Baby sloth born Nova holding onto Mum Marilyn
    12 January 2023

    Baby sloth born at London Zoo in 2023

    London Zoo celebrates not so slow start to the year with birth of adorable baby sloth.

  • Nightlife graphic with a photo of a slow loris on an illustrated forest at night background
    Tiptoe into the forest after dark


    Step into the forest after dark and get up close to enchanting species who welcome the night.

  • Tamandua at Rainforest Life London Zoo
    Tamandua tetradactyla


    Tamanduas are a small species of anteater, which have massive tongues growing up to 40cm in length.

  • Book now to visit our animals at London Zoo
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