The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has a new zoo baby!
After roughly a week of 24-hour birth watch, Lightning, a Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth, gave birth to a pup on June 7.
The baby — whose name is still being decided — was born around 7:35 p.m. Wednesday, and the zoo said it appears to be healthy and strong as it bonds with its mother. The sex of the baby sloth isn’t known yet, and the zoo said it often requires DNA testing to know for sure.
Lightning and the new pup also won’t be visible to zoo guests for a while as they continue to bond, but the zoo shared a video clip of mom and baby on Twitter:
We are thrilled to announce that Lightning the sloth had her baby!! So far baby and Mom seem to be doing well. They will remain behind the scenes to bond but we will share updates as we have them! pic.twitter.com/gLmzKO92ct
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) June 9, 2023
The birth of the new pup comes after 10-year-old Lightning gave birth to a stillborn pup in 2021.
“This is the first sloth baby that our team has cared for,” said Julie Grove, Cincinnati Zoo’s manager of ambassador animals. “We are beyond excited that the baby is finally here! We’re ready to provide support to Lightning as she navigates being a mom.”
In an effort to prep Lightning for her motherly duties, zoo staff put a tiny stuffed sloth on her for a few weeks to condition her to get comfortable with it.
So far, Grove said the zoo is seeing all the maternal behaviors from Lightning they were hoping for.
“We are monitoring mom and baby closely but remaining hands off for the most part,” Grove said. “Lightning’s maternal instincts are kicking in.”
As the baby continues to grow, it will start sampling solid food at about 10 days old and will continue to nurse for about a month, the zoo said. After that, the pup will cling to Lightning’s belly and eat whatever she eats.
The baby can be expected to first hang upside down on its own as sloths usually do at about 20 to 25 days old.
Lightning arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2019 on a breeding recommendation and was introduced to Moe, the pup’s father, that December. Because sloths don’t do anything speedily, the pair took their relationship slow and didn’t warm up to each other until 2020.
Moe currently lives at the P&G Discovery Forest in the zoo’s education center. The zoo said he was removed from Lightning’s side when she entered a cranky period of her pregnancy.
Two-toed sloths aren’t considered endangered but are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to human encroachment, the zoo said.
By Molly Schramm and Felicia Jordan, Scripps News Cincinnati.