Getting Busy?: Detroit Zoo’s Two-toed Sloth

ANIMAL ATTRACTION: This aptly named sloth is a real couch potato
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HOMER — This Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth hangs out in the rainforest. // Photograph by Mark M. Gaskill, the Detroit Zoo

Celebrate the season of April showers with a visit to the rainforest-like Immersion Gallery at the Detroit Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center. And while you’re there, stop by to see Homer — a Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni).

Homer is a favorite of many zoo visitors, even though he’s not exactly the most active and exciting kind of guy. The 20-year-old sloth spends most of the time napping in his tree.

According to the animal care staff most familiar with him, Homer cops a ’tude when it comes to his not-so-favorite foods. He tends to pick through his food bowl in the morning, throwing unwanted items out of his tree and onto the floor — which is perfectly fine with his neighbor, Charo, a Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctate) who happily snacks on his leftovers.

The Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth is normally native to the warm and humid climate of tropical forests in Central and South America. But Homer hails from the East Coast. (Born May 15, 1992, at Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y.; he later moved to Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Conn. He arrived in Detroit in 2000.)

The sloth is well-named, as it’s one of the slowest moving mammals on earth. It spends nearly its whole life hanging upside down in the trees — even eating, sleeping, mating, and giving birth in this position. In fact, the sloth has such a low metabolism, it takes a while to fully digest its food — and only has to “go” about once a week.

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