TRURO – Their excitement was evident even before Arthur made his debut.
Arthur, an eight-month-old two-toed sloth, visited with two lucky families during a Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo visit to Truro last month.
“This is amazing,” said Vanessa Adams, who was there with her son, Caelum Myra, and mother, Colleen Adams.
“It’s awesome,” said seven-year-old Caelum. “I’ve never held a sloth before.”
Vanessa said the sloth is her son’s favourite animal, and he’s “all about” the relative of anteaters and aardvarks. “He gets so excited when he sees one on TV.”
Josh Bulgin, one of the rangers with Little Ray’s, explained to the family what Arthur was eating – brown rice.
“Usually he gets a mix of brown rice, sweet potato and high protein dog food,” said Bulgin, adding the sloth gets more nutrients and protein more efficiently with that mix than if he was out in the wild. “His diet came directly from a specialized veterinarian.”
During the two-day visit to Truro, thousands of visitors stopped by the display, which featured a number of other creatures from spiders to a crocodilian.
The sloth was one of the biggest draws, with the organization offering a special meet and greet for two families.
“We’ve had Arthur for about five months now,” said Bulgin. “We were able to get him and another sloth from a retired, specialized veterinarian who only works with accredited zoos.”
Arthur and the other sloth, Linus, were both bred from two sloths in the veterinarian’s care. Bulgin said those two sloths were seized during an illegal border transport.
“Because Arthur was born in captivity and hand-raised, he would never survive in the wild,” Bulgin explained.
Sloths, he said, are becoming more and more popular as pets, although they make awful pets due to their specialized needs.
“It’s basically a full-time job. People who do buy sloths for pets aren’t properly equipped to care for them. When they live in the wild, they have the potential to live almost double the lifespan than if they were a pet.”
Christine Hamblin travelled from Tantallan with her daughters – Elena, 7, and Natalya, 10 – after winning a meet and greet with Arthur.
Both girls used the same words as Caelum and his mother to describe the experience, with Hamblin adding in “unbelievable.”
Natalya got lots of comments from Little Ray’s staff on her fluffy sloth sweater, which she displayed with pride.
“I love everything about them,” she said. “But I like the three-toed sloth better – because I have a stuffy.”
Hamblin said her daughters didn’t know about the meet and greet in Truro, only one in Halifax in January, and surprised them the night before with the news of winning the meet and greet.
“They were just shocked. Natalya was squealing and freaking out,” she said.
Native to South and Central America, the sloth is a nocturnal animal and Bulgin said they do what they can to make both Arthur and Linus comfortable – with heating pads, humidifiers, and heaters. In the evening, they have quite a large space where they’re able to move around more. The lights are turned off in the night for the animals.
Bulgin said about 80 per cent of the animals in the care of Little Ray’s are rescued pets or abused animals, and even include those that were illegally owned then seized.
If it’s an injured animal that came from the wild, Little Ray’s releasing them once they’re ready.
“In the last 18 months, we rehomed 30 crocodilians into outdoor reserves, giving them a much larger space outdoors,” said Bulgin.