For the first time ever, the Cincinnati Zoo is expecting a new addition to its sloth family.
Lightning, a pregnant 8-year-old Linne's two-toed sloth, is making history! Her offspring with 21-year-old partner Moe will be the first baby sloth to be born at the Ohio zoo. The baby sloth, who is expected to arrive in September or October, is also the first offspring for the animal couple.
"We are so excited that Lightning is pregnant! The sloth animal care team has been on this journey since 2016, and now we are so pleased to bring our sloth fans along for the rest of the ride and into this new baby's life." Sarah Swanson, the Cincinnati Zoo's interpretive animal team leader, said in a news release. "Patience is a must when you work with sloths! They have a 10-month gestation period, and we're only through the first trimester."
Although Lightning and Moe are now happily expecting their baby sloth, "it wasn't love at first sight" between the pair initially, the zoo said, adding the their "courtship took a long time."
According to the zoo, Lightning came to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2019 on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan (SSP). That December, she was introduced to Moe, who was orphaned in the wild as a young sloth and brought into human care to survive. He has been an ambassador for his species at the zoo since 2006.
After some time, Lightning and Moe warmed up to each other and conceived their first child together during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Lightning has had a healthy pregnancy so far. A recent ultrasound showed that her baby sloth has a head, spine, arms, legs, and a heartbeat, per the zoo.
"We are always cautiously optimistic with first-time moms, but we are fairly confident that Lightning's assertive personality will lend well to being a first-time mom," said Swanson. "She will do most of the work once the baby is born. It will latch on to her and stay attached for the next 10-12 months. Dad's contribution is genetics."
According to the zoo, Linne's two-toed sloths are not considered endangered, but the species is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to human encroachment and activity.
The Cincinnati Zoo generates funds from its private sloth encounters that are used to care for Moe and Lightning and to support conservation partner, The Sloth Institute.
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