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Baby sloth born at London Zoo after parents ‘secret’ rendezvous

Marilyn shares a moment with her newborn (Picture by Tony Bates / ZSL) Marilyn shares a moment with her newborn (Picture by Tony Bates / ZSL)

Friday, May 23, 2014
12:01 AM

A sloth born at London Zoo has surprised keepers who had no idea its parents had taken a liking to each other.

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The sloth baby peers out from under a branch (Picture by Tony Bates / ZSL)The sloth baby peers out from under a branch (Picture by Tony Bates / ZSL)

These lovely pictures show two-toed sloth Marilyn cradling her new arrival, conceived rather more quickly than anticipated with her beau Leander.

Leander was flown in from Germany to be Marilyn’s mate but keepers were not expecting fireworks quite so soon.

Two-toed sloths have been known to take nearly a decade to form a pair bond and breed, but factoring in an estimated 11-month pregnancy, it appears Marilyn and Leander were far from slow off the mark, taking six months to successfully mate.

Staff at the zoo had no idea the pair had acknowledged each other, but while they were playing it cool in public it seems that after hours the “sneaky” sloths had hit it off.

Two-toed sloth Marilyn with her baby. (Picture by Tony Bates / ZSL)Two-toed sloth Marilyn with her baby. (Picture by Tony Bates / ZSL)

Zookeeper Tegan McPhail said: “To say we were surprised when Marilyn fell pregnant is something of an understatement - we weren’t aware that she’d even been near the male.

“When Leander arrived at the zoo at the end of 2012, he and Marilyn just didn’t appear particularly interested in each other, but we knew that with sloths these things can take some time.

“However, with the arrival of the first sloth to be born at ZSL London Zoo, it appears that it was all an act on their behalf and our two very sneaky sloths were getting amorous behind our backs.”

Keepers do not know the sex of the new arrival, which is spending its days clinging on to Marilyn, and will not be able to tell if it is a boy or a girl until it is scanned by vets as there are no external differences between males and females.

Sloths are slow-moving, tree-dwelling, nocturnal animals which feed on plants in their native tropical forests in Central and South America.

They have long, sharp claws, good for hanging from trees, but making walking laborious. Sloths are strong swimmers and can drop from trees into a river to swim across it.

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