Baby sloth brings some national attention to South Bend's Potawatomi Zoo

·3 min read

SOUTH BEND – The Potawatomi Zoo had a good year already going before its latest new arrival earlier this month.

An energetic baby Sichuan takin was born March 2, followed by a Chicoan peccary on Marcy 31 and, finally, a three-banded armadillo on April 2. But the new arrival that’s garnered the most recognition so far is a Linne’s two-toed sloth that was born May 9.

Images of the zoo’s newest baby were picked up by media in many parts of the country for no other reason than that sloths have their own fan base and their babies rank extremely high on the cute scale, said Josh Sisk, executive director of the zoo.

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Amy Jacobs feeds a mother sloth holding a baby Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.
Amy Jacobs feeds a mother sloth holding a baby Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.

The gender of the new arrival is still undetermined and it’s hard to get a look at the baby at this point because it’s clinging to its mother, Lily, in one big ball of fur. A native to the Amazon River basin, the two-toed sloth is a nocturnal and tree-dwelling creature that’s considered of least concern for extinction.

And as its name implies, it isn’t known for a lot of unnecessary movement.

The baby sloth at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.
The baby sloth at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.

“It would be great to catch a glimpse of the baby,” Kristina Barroso Burrell, manager of marketing and communications for the zoo, said while waiting patiently with a photographer to catch a glimpse of the baby.

“But they (the babies) live up to their name even more than the adults,” she added.

Although the sloth might have gained the most attention for the zoo, the most active of the new arrivals are the peccary and the takin, which seem to take great delight in randomly sprinting around their habitats to the dismay of their somewhat staid family members.

A baby Chicoan Peccary is shown Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.
A baby Chicoan Peccary is shown Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.

At this point, the three-banded armadillo behaves more like the baby sloth, spending most of its time curled up into an armored shell near its mother.

Besides the babies, the zoo already has added three new red river hogs to its population, and a new primate species will, hopefully, be taking over space once occupied by the zoo’s lions later this summer.

About the same time, the zoo hopes to acquire three new male lions to move into a more natural $1.5 million habitat that is currently being built in the location where chimpanzees once lived. The zoo simply didn’t have enough space to house a population sufficient for the highly social primates, Sisk said.

A baby armadillo is shown Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.
A baby armadillo is shown Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend.

And while a new exhibit for Howler monkeys and the long-awaited $4.6 million habitat for giraffes are nearing completion, construction also will get underway later this year on a new black bear exhibit and concession lodge.

Star attraction: Giraffes ready to make their debut at the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend

“This has been the biggest growth phase in our history,” said Sisk, pointing out that the zoo has been concentrating on upgrading every habitat and bringing in new animals and attractions as it pushes to grow attendance.

On a growth curve since 2014, the zoo reached attendance of 275,000 last year and has hopes of ultimately reaching 400,000 as it continues to create new attractions and further extend its season, Sisk said.

To accommodate growth, work also is underway to add 60 parking spaces to the 160-space lot that serves the zoo and the adjoining city park. At present, parking can get forced out into adjoining neighborhoods on busy days.

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: South Bend's Potawatomi Zoo gains some national attention for baby sloth