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 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.