Sloths are cute, especially when photo-bombing a group of students. Baby sloths are cuter, most notably when decked out in a onesie. But a baby sloth who clings to a teddy bear and drinks milk from a syringe? Cutest, by far.
The below pictures are from Burgers Zoo in Holland, where Sjakie, a newborn sloth, is clinging to a teddy bear gifted to him by one of the zookeeper’s daughters. Sjakie needs to be fed from a syringe, and takes comfort in the stuffed animal's fur. Wineke Schoo, a biologist at the zoo, explained to Today.com that baby sloths like to cuddle with their mothers while feeding. “It’s a natural reflex that they have that needs to be filled, especially early on,” he said.
Although Sjakie’s actual mother, Gema, is still alive, she has trouble producing milk for her offspring. After one of her children passed away in 2011, possibly from a lack of milk, zookeepers decided to keep a close eye on Sjakie after he was born and try out this alternative feeding method.
Famous for being the slowest moving mammals on Earth, sloths rely on an herbivorous diet that makes them naturally listless, says Animal Planet. The lack of protein and fat in their diets affect everything in their lives, from eating and sleeping to picking their sexual partners, according to a study in the journal Animal Behavior. The pressure of producing milk is just an added stress for fragile sloth moms. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identifies some sloths as species of least concern, and others as vulnerable due to habitat loss and hunting.
According to Spiegel Online, this is not the first time a teddy bear was given to a sloth as a surrogate mother. The Frankfurt Zoological Garden used this method to feed another baby sloth named Oskar, and a zoo in west Germany gave Burgers Zoo the idea after it was done successfully in Dortmund. Click here to check out this video of Sid the baby sloth feeding and clinging to his own teddy bear!
Public Radio International reports that Sjakie is now a healthy two-month old, and will soon begin climbing and becoming more independent.
Check out the two photos of baby Sjakie below!