Boy or girl? It's a sloth, so we don't know yet

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2017 11:17 PM
Boy or girl? It's a sloth, so we don't know yet

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Zookeepers are waiting for a DNA test to learn whether Hattiesburg Zoo's baby sloth is a boy or a girl. That's because sloths' sex organs are internal.

They'll have to send a bit of fur to a larger zoo to learn the gender of the Hoffman's two-toed sloth born to Mo and Chewy, curator of mammals Stephen Taylor said Friday.

Mama Mo, hanging upside-down with the baby resting on her belly, was on public view Friday for the first time since giving birth Feb. 5.

The first days after birth are delicate for any animal, and Taylor said this one didn't start suckling on its own. After about half a day, zookeepers began feeding it puppy milk replacement from a syringe fitted with a nipple instead of a needle, he said.

"We're still hoping it'll pick it up once it gets more coordinated and mobile," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Not that sloths, native to Central and South America, are wildly active at any time.

They were named for their inaction, an adaptation to their low-nutrition diet of leaves.

The baby's even slower than adults — and clumsy, Taylor said.

"It just sits on mom's tummy right now," he said.

About every two hours, a zookeeper disengages the baby to feed it.

Starting Friday, those feedings moved from behind the scenes to the sloths' viewing window.

Since it was a workday, there wasn't much of a crowd. "I imagine tomorrow's going to be pretty nuts," Taylor said.

Because of the baby, Mo hasn't been part of the twice-weekly "sloth experiences" which let visitors pay extra to mix up sloth food and even hold Chewy, who used to be a pet, on their laps.

It's likely to be "quite a few months" before she and the baby return to the sloth experience room, Taylor said.

Although sloths are born with a full coat of fur, their eyes open, and a full complement of teeth and long claws, they're dependent on their mothers for about a year, according to the zoo.