A Sloth Retirement Home Has Been Set Up In The UK
While a retirement community was not the zoo's initial plan, Folly Farm made the decision to home older sloths to aid UK conservation by freeing up enclosure space for younger, breeding pairs.
"Conservation is key for us at Folly Farm and our breeding programmes are a huge part of that, but our older animals are just as important to us and we need to make sure they're looked after in their old age," explained zoo curator, Tim Morphew.
Sloths' natural habitat is at the top of the tall trees of Central and South American rain and cloud forests where they're safe from predators like jaguars and eagles.
While little is known about their total population, the biggest threat to the future of wild sloths is humans. Logging, urbanisation, and habitat destruction in South and Central America means dog attacks, road collisions and being hunted for their meat and fur are very real risks because being so slow moving they are often unable to escape.
Around 23-27 inches long - the size of a medium-sized dog - and weighing an average of 8kg, two-toed sloths have a lifespan of about 20 years in the wild, but have been known to live up to 50 in captivity.
To make the residents' old age easier and happier their usual diet of root vegetables is boiled to make it softer and easier to eat and digest, cod liver oil is added to meals if they're having problems getting around their enclosure and the height of climbing branches can be lowered to make getting up and down easier.
The first of the retirement home's current residents was male Tuppee, 24, who arrived at Folly Farm in March 2016.
"Like many older men, Tuppee has been known to be a bit grumpy and even misbehaves at times, but we know he's a softie at heart," assures Morphew.
Next came Lightcap, 34, a brand new arrival from Bristol Zoo, who is currently the fifth oldest sloth in any zoo in Europe.
"Sloths aren't known for being social animals, but as they get older we've found they do like company," explains Morphew.
"Who knows, soon we may even be in a position to expand the retirement home further." Let's keep our fingers (and two-toes) crossed.
Featured Image Credit: PA Images