They’re everyone’s favorite lethargic creature: the gentle, slow-moving sloth. These lovable forest-dwelling critters have a lifespan of an estimated 20 years in Central American rain forests, but when it comes to those living in captivity, they can live a whopping 50 years. So what happens when a zoo-dwelling sloth in his twilight years? He heads to Folly Farm in Pembrokeshire, United Kingdom, which announced last year that it would offer a sanctuary, or retirement home of sorts, for elderly sloths.
Just like elderly humans, aging sloths need a bit more care and attention. According to Folly Farm’s zoo curator, Tim Morphew, elderly sloths get achy muscles and slow down just as people do, so they need extra assistance. Depending on how needy the sloth is, Morphew will bring branches lower so climbing down is easier, give them cod liver oil, and boil root vegetables to make them easier to eat.
Currently, the sloth retirement home has two sloths: Tuppee, age 24, and Lightcap, age 34 —making her the fifth oldest sloth in any European zoos.
“Initially we didn’t make a conscious decision to home older sloths,” explained Morphew on the Folly Farm website. “Conservation is key for us at Folly Farm and our breeding programs 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. By taking on these older animals and giving them a comfortable retirement, we’re helping conservation efforts at other zoos by freeing up enclosures for younger, breeding pairs.”
There are six species of sloths and of those, only the pygmy three-toed sloth is endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund. However, due to an increase of deforestation, the habitats of these tree-dwellers are continually threatened. Learn more about how to “adopt” a sloth at the WWF website.