Slowing down even more: British zoo opens sloth retirement home

Zoo Opens Retirement Home For Old Sloths

Many retirees prefer to spend their golden years in a place where they can kick back and relax. As it turns out, sloths are no exception, and a zoo in Wales is giving the slow-moving critters a place to do just that.

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Folly Farm announced in November 2018 it would house older sloths that were previously on display in zoos. The sloth retirement home opened with a pair of two-toed residents: 24-year-old Tuppee and 34-year-old Lightcap. Lightcap is the fifth-oldest sloth at any European zoo, Folly Farm said.

“Initially, we didn’t make a conscious decision to home older sloths,” said zoo curator Tim Morphew. “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.”

Two-toed sloths have an average lifespan of 20 years in the wild but have been known to live to 50 years in captivity, according to a Folly Farm blog post. While sloths are slow-moving to begin with, they become even slower as they grow old, the post said. The gentle animals require special care.

Zookeepers may boil the sloth’s root vegetables to make them easier to chew and give the sloths cod liver oil supplements, Morphew said. There’s also a possibility zookeepers will make adaptations to the sloths’ enclosure, such as reducing the height of branches so they don’t have as far to climb.

Finally, the keepers are watching the sloth pair to make sure they get along, Morphew said.

“Like many older men, Tuppee has been known to be a bit grumpy and even misbehaves at times but we know he’s a softie at heart,” Morphew said. “We’re hoping some older, female company will be a good influence on him and bring out the softer side of his nature. Sloths aren’t known for being social animals, but as they get older, we’ve found they do like company.”

Morphew told the BBC the zoo may eventually expand the sloth retirement home.