Science, Tech & Environment

Meet Sjakie, the baby sloth saved by a child's teddy bear


Sjakie, a baby sloth in The Netherlands, clings to the teddy bear it uses while feeding. (Photo courtesy of the Burgers' Zoo.)


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A baby sloth, named Sjakie, needs a teddy bear to survive after its mother wasn’t producing enough milk.

Sloths have claws, and in order to feed they need something to hang onto. It's a reflex, said Wineke Schoo, park manager of Burgers Zoo in Arnhem, The Netherlands, where Sjakie lives.

"We wanted to find something that we could use for that purpose," Schoo said.

The baby was found dehydrated a few days after birth and zookeepers immediately moved in to save its life.

That's where the teddy bear comes in. Because a mother sloth has fur, they wanted to give Sjakie something that felt like his mom. After trying several stuffed animals, nothing seemed to be really working.

"Because he has to have milk every three hours, the keepers had to take him home. Finally, he was with a keeper, and he has a daughter, two years old, and she came and she saw Sjakie and she said 'well, I have a teddy bear I'll give him as a present," Schoo said. "This was actually the right one. We don't know why, probably because it has the right size."

The little girl, Schoo said, is really proud of how well the baby sloth is doing since she gave him her teddy bear.

"She really gave it as a present, and the father said he didn't want to take it back," Schoo said.

Why's that? Because the sloth also pees on the teddy bear. In the end, it will be a teddy bear not to be used again.

Sjakie's now two months old and thriving. In the next few weeks, he's expected to begin climbing and spending time on his own.

But he'll probably still use the teddy bear for a while longer, as he would regularly head back to his mother to feed after spending time on his own. For the moment, though, Sjakie is separated from his actual mother, for both animals' own safety. Once he's full-grown, though, they'll likely be put back in the same enclosure, Schoo said.

"They'll have normal social contact," Schoo said, "but he will probably will not see her as his mother any more."