Sun, Feb 19, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Mississippi two-toed baby sloth’s gender still a mystery with DNA test required

AP, HATTIESBURG, Mississippi

A two-toed baby sloth lies on a blanket at the Hattiesburg Zoo in Mississippi on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Zookeepers are waiting for a DNA test to learn whether a baby sloth born in Hattiesburg Zoo, Mississippi, is a boy or a girl. That is because sloths’ sex organs are internal.

They will 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, the zoo’s curator of mammals Stephen Taylor said on Friday.

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

The first days after birth are delicate for any animal, and Taylor said this one did not 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 during a telephone interview with reporters.

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 are 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 on Friday, those feedings moved from behind the scenes to the sloths’ viewing window.

Since it was a workday, there was not much of a crowd.

“I imagine tomorrow [yesterday] is going to be pretty nuts,” Taylor said.

Because of the baby, Mo has not 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 is 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 are dependent on their mothers for about a year, the zoo said.

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