It’s 8:45 a.m., and we’re preparing for the arrival of the first visitors. The mission is clear, the objective is simple, and the importance is crucial: find the sloths! Yeah, I’ve heard the joke a million times – we’re not talking about employees here, but about the two-toed sloths who live in the canopy of the Biodôme’s tropical rainforest.
Where are the sloths?
It has to be admitted, the secret life of these fairly unusual mammals catches everyone’s attention. For the benefit of visitors, the animation team will try to find the location of “visible” individuals every day. Our five individuals have plenty of favorite rest spots, but from one day to the next, from season to season, the locations change. Casual visitors will have to ask an animator for help if they want to see an animal, while regular visitors will enjoy following their movements from one location to the next. Late in the day it’s sometimes possible to see them moving around, clinging to the Biodôme structure.
The animal-keeper team keeps tabs on their wellbeing every day based on clues that often have to be interpreted. The sloth routine includes an active period of some three to five hours per day, and that usually falls between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. At that time the lights in the ecosystem are off, the Biodôme is closed and the animal keepers are no longer at work. The sloths and the animal keepers don’t keep the same schedules, but that doesn’t prevent the animals from leaving messages. Food consumption, excrement on the ground, broken branches and choice of resting site are all elements that provide clues to sloth habits. Diets can then be modified according to their preferences or their needs, laboratory analyses can be done on their droppings, and branches can simply be cut to alter their access to the canopy.
At work for the sloths
We never slow down when it comes to sloth wellbeing! They’ve been the subject of numerous encounters, exchanges between zoos, expertise-sharing sessions… We’ve worked through the night to observe them, performed miracles of veterinary surgery, and analyzed several of their discreet habits. Curiously, our greatest source of pride is seeing a sloth curled up in a ball at the top of a tree, calm, relaxed and asleep. That’s how we know it’s doing well and that our work is just what it needs.
To enjoy the two-toed sloths and to find out where they might be at any point, feel free to ask an animator for help. But above all don’t forget that you have to take your time if you want to savor every facet of the life of a very unusual animal.