Think about Roger Williams Park Zoo and your mind will likely conjure images of wild beasts: a fierce cheetah, a graceful giraffe, a hairy tarantula, a two-toed sloth. Okay, that last one maybe not so much. After all, sloths – cousins of anteaters and armadillos – just kind of, well, hang around. But thanks to the Zoo’s conservation efforts, lots of engaging social media – including YouTube – and a new mama with a very boop-able nose, the six-year-old two-toed sloth Fiona has become a sort of mascot of a slowed-down COVID-19 world.
Complications required a team of vets to help the first-time mom through the May 13 delivery. “Oh, it was such a relief – we were all cheering – when the baby was safe!” says zookeeper Jennifer Hennessy, who oversees the Faces of the Rainforest exhibit where the sloths reside. The baby, named Beany, stays very close to the mom, and in addition to nursing, also enjoys fruit and veggie snacks. And yes, visitors will be able to see the pair when the exhibit reopens. “We really think that it’s so important to have that in-person experience with the animals,” says Hennessy.
According to Diane Nahabedian, the director of marketing and PR, about half a dozen baby animals are born at the Zoo annually and currently there is a red wolf in residence waiting for a mate. So, until a red wolf cub arrives, the cuteness factor rests solely with the sloths.