Friday, July 24, 2015

Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Hanging with the Sloths and the Black & White Ruffed Lemur

We are pleased to introduce Wildwood Wildlife Park's newest zookeeper Marisa Levin. She may be new to the park but it didn't take her long to select her favorite animal for National Zookeeper Week: the sloths. Sloths spend a lot of their time sleeping so it is only natural that Marisa would demonstrate how relaxing and comfortable a sloth's favorite sleeping spot is! 

Sloths are tropical mammals that live in Central and South America. A sloths long arms allow them to spend most of their time hanging upside-down from trees. They use their huge hooked claws to hang onto branches while munching on leaves that other animals can't reach. As you can imagine, a sloth's long claws make walking on the ground difficult, which dictates that they spend their lives in the tree tops of the tropical rain forests. It may surprise you to learn that sloths are excellent swimmers! From time to time they will drop down into the water from their treetop perches. 

It can take up to one month for a sloth to digest one meal. The sloth's diets consist of tough leaves that are difficult to digest. Their leafy diet isn't very nutritious and do not get much energy from it. This may be why sloths are so slow!

Sloths both mate and give birth to their young in trees. Courting starts when a female yells a mating scream letting the males in the area know that she's ready to mate. Males will fight for her by hanging from branches by their feet and pawing at each other. After 5-6 months females will give birth to a single baby. Babies cling to their mother's belly for several weeks after birth, and will remain by their mother's side for up to four years. These drowsy tree-dwellers can sleep up to 20-hours a day and when they are awake they barely move at all!

While four of the sloth species range over large portions of norther South America and are common in protected areas, two species of the three-toed sloths, the maned three-toed sloth and the pygmy three-toed sloth are listed as endangered species on the IUCN Red List.

Wildwood Wildlife Park's zookeeper Brooke Rose is showing off her balancing skills as she recreates the amazing climbing ability of Wildwood's male Black and White Ruffed Lemur, Bobby. Brooke has been here at Wildwood for 6 years! 

Populations of wild ruffed lemurs are critically endangered in Madagascar, which is the only place lemurs are found in. This species is endangered primarily due to the loss of habitat as the forests are cleared for logging and farming. The name “lemur” means “ghost “ in Latin. The first people to hear their loud calls thought they were ghosts in the forest. Lemurs have a wide range of vocalizations.

Black and white ruffed lemurs live in social groups made up of many males and many females, who are in charge. They live primarily in trees are are excellent climbers and jumpers. 

Ruffed lemurs are frugivores, eating mainly fruit, but also eat edible plants and flowers. The black and white ruffed lemur is one of only two types of lemurs to build nests for their young. Females typically have 2 babies, though they can have as many as six. Unlike other lemurs, the babies stay in the nest while the mother looks for food and if the mother needs to move them, she carries them in her mouth. Other lemur species continually carry their young on their backs. 

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