Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Slow Day at the Zoo

[a sloth-in-the-box]

As I have mentioned before, the zoo’s sloths are elusive. –Well, that’s not precisely true: the sloth in the Amazonia exhibit is elusive (to the point of having achieved invisibility), and the ones in the Small-Mammal House are immobile. All that can be seen of them is a bit of claw, a bit of fur, a mysterious stretch of what might be an arm or leg or neck—there’s no real way to tell, given the way the sloths fold themselves into their nest-boxes with the agility of long-time yoga practitioners. Although tantalizing for the viewer, the sloths’ behavior is not really surprising; they’re nocturnal, after all, so there’s no good reason for them to be gallivanting about during visiting hours.

That’s why I was especially astonished—and completely thrilled—when this Sunday the male sloth in the small-mammal house was not only moving but moving all over his exhibit. In fact, he stayed out, and active, long enough for me to go home and get Annie to come see him, too (it helps if you live five minutes’ walk from the zoo—but still).

[sloth with tamarin monkey in the background;
the volunteers explained that these monkeys,
which are, I estimate, about 50 billion times
faster than the sloths, tend to jump on the sloths
and try to take their food and/or groom them; by
the time the sloth moves his/her arm to swipe
them off, they’ve already jumped away.
Ah, the joys of cohabitation!]

The sloth’s reasons for this promenade were unclear; he wasn’t heading for his nest box or even for the rocks under which he sometimes folds himself. Instead, he circled the exhibit, strolling slowly upside-down along the many ropes that crisscross the enclosure. The zoo volunteers speculated that he was feeling frisky because Sunday was the first mild and sunny day we’ve had in a while. I’m not sure, though; I mean, I was excited about the nice weather, but would a nocturnal animal really be enthused by sunlight?

Who knows. He was animated by something, anyway, and I’m glad he was. He attracted quite a crowd, too; I think my favorite comment from the onlookers was one young woman’s observation, “His hair is the exact same color as my grandfather’s second wife’s.”

I’ll leave you with that thought.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


Anca said...

I laughed out loud. I'm only sorry you didn't get a photo of the tamarin monkey on the sloth.

Noel said...

Huh! I just realized I've never seen a sloth, now I know why!

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