I’ve been struggling with this particular blog post because I’ve come to realize that I really don’t know very much about sloths, nor do I have a lot of cool photos of the ones from the Zoo. They’re not particularly active and, even when they are out and about, their enclosures are very dim. The photo I used of Sally this year really was a one-in-a-million capture, as the sun from the tiny skylight happened to be shining directly on her while simultaneously causing all of the background to be so dark it basically disappeared. Luckily they are extremely slow-moving animals, or this would never have been as crisp as it is. The photo at left is also of Sally, but was taken over a year later and you can see the difficulties of lighting her properly in this image. But that never stopped me from trying whenever I do happen to come upon one of them moving about. You never know what you’ll end up with.
This shot was taken the same day, but from a different angle so the light was much better. Sally and Bob had been out together but try as I might I was unable to get any shots of him at all. Speaking of Bob and Sally together: not too long after I took the photo I used for this month’s calendar page, I learned that one of the two sloths in the Americas Pavilion (the other one was Tania) had passed away. Since Sally was about twice as old as Tania, and I couldn’t find specifics, I assumed it was she that had died and I was already thinking about whether to use her photo or not; it turned out, though, that it was Tania we lost so the moral quandary was gone. Some time later, Bob – the most famous sloth at the Zoo – was moved from his holding area out of public viewing and put in with Sally. I found this interesting because Sally and Tania had been in two different enclosures but when Bob replaced the deceased sloth he actually took up quarters with Sally in the white-faced saki enclosure. This is great for them, but the drawback is that Tania used to live with the common marmosets which made for many hilarious moments whenever one did happen upon her moving about. The monkeys used to jump on and off of the belly of the upside-down sloth as if she were some kind of hanging gondola and it was absolutely adorable to watch. My feeling is if either of the sakis tried the same trick the pair would immediately crash to the floor.
In the summer months, the sloths have access to the outside enclosures just as the primates do. Obviously the lighting is far better out there but it’s even rarer to catch them outside and awake than inside and awake – and then there’s that pesky fence. It’s not a huge enclosure outside (which really doesn’t bother the sloths) so they can’t really be far enough away from the fence for me to be able to effectively blur it out – especially if it’s sunny. Still, they really seem to enjoy it out there and the daylight really shows off the green tint to their fur. Believe it or not, that is actually algae that is growing on these beasts, due to their general lethargy and infrequent movement. I’m not sure if the marmosets at the Zoo were just having fun or actually eating the algae, but in the wild the sloth is quite beneficial to the little creatures who reside in the canopy of the rainforests with them. The algae provides the sloth excellent camouflage while they sit inert for days at a time – and also when they take their weekly crawl down to the ground to defecate – but it also is a food source for the monkeys and birds in the area. Additionally, many far smaller creatures make their homes in the sloth’s fur, including beetles and moths and the like. In fact, a sloth’s fur is basically an ecosystem unto itself and there are a few species of arthropods who exist in nature only in a specific sub-species of sloth. They can stick out their tongues up to a foot in length in order to reach the tasty leaves they crave without having to move their bodies any closer. And because they eat leaves almost exclusively, they have an extremely slow digestive process in order to glean all the minimal nutrients from each meal – a process that may take up to a month to complete. And oh yes: incredibly, they are excellent swimmers. They are truly remarkable creatures, all in all.
Bob the sloth, Sally’s new companion, is a bit of a minor celebrity in Toronto. During the FIFA World Cup of 2014 (ack, I can’t believe I’m writing about soccer!) Bob was asked to make a few predictions, including accurately choosing Germany as the eventual tournament winners. According to the Zoo, Bob correctly predicted 14 World Cup matches prior to the Finals, with an accuracy rate of over 70%. For his “efforts”, Bob was presented with a scroll from Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly later that summer. Well, Kelly tried to present it to him; Bob apparently refused to take it three times and when he finally did grab it he immediately dropped it to the ground. Now that is a sloth I can get behind: one who has almost exactly the same reaction to soccer as I do. No, I don’t wish to debate it. Thanks, anyway!
Anyhow…. here is a cute video of Bob from the next year when he appeared on an episode of something called Amazing Animals, which I think was a production of the Metro newspaper out of Durham:
Also, while I’m sharing videos with you…..recognize this? (It’s rhetorical; I can’t imagine any of you will answer “no”…)
Yes, that’s “Anna” from Frozen. Why am I including her in this story about sloths? Well, Anna is voiced by the adorable Kristen Bell, best known previously for her roles as “Veronica Mars” and in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, although she came to my attention through her semi-regular appearances on Craig Ferguson’s Late, Late Show. And Kristen Bell has a passion for sloths. Quite a passion. An incredible passion. I could go on….but take a look at this instead:
I can’t imagine following that, so I’ll just end it here for this month.
Please come back in November for a pre-fatherhood shot of one of the most photogenic creatures at the Zoo – when you can catch him in good lighting, that is. As always, thanks for joining me on this continuing journey!