Love is in the air at Beardsley Zoo
BRIDGEPORT — Getting a pair of sloths to mate isn’t a job for the impatient.
For nearly two weeks, Jabba, the resident bachelor two-toed sloth at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, has been sharing a cage in the zoo’s Animal Health Care Center with Hope, a female brought in to light Jabba’s fire. As one might imagine from sloths, it’s been going slowly.
Tuesday afternoon, Hope was snuggled up in a crate in the enclosure, and Jabba was lounging against a branch on the other side of the cage. It didn’t look too cozy, considering it was the day before Valentine’s Day, but this has been the norm thus far, said zoo director Gregg Dancho.
“Every time I’ve gone in here to look at them, Hope is over here and Jabba’s over there,” he said. “We hope they’re just being coy.”
The sloth courtship is one of two love matches the zoo is encouraging. The facility also acquired 4-year-old Meri as a prospective mate for the zoo’s red panda, Rochan. Red pandas are not true pandas, but a unique species whose name is derived from a Nepalese word, “ponya,” meaning “eater of bamboo.”
Right now, Meri is playing Miss Lonelyhearts, having just finished up her quarantine period and waiting for her intended to join her at the care center.
Neither Hope nor Meri is on display at the zoo, but they are expected to make their public debut in a few weeks. The goal of all this woo at the zoo is breeding the animals. Red pandas are endangered species and, though two-toed sloths aren’t as endangered, “anything that lives in the rain forest could have a problem,” Dancho said.
Two-toed sloths are found in Central and South America and typically live in trees in rainforests, as well as deciduous forests. The two-toed sloth is larger and (relatively) faster than its cousin, the three-toed sloth.
Hope once lived in Connecticut before transferring temporarily to John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Mich. With her big eyes, button nose, and chestnut-hued fur, she is a catch for the silver-furred Jabba — though Dancho said both are fairly old. “It’s an autumn romance,” he said.
Though the two aren’t exactly re-enacting “50 Shades of Grey,” Dancho said they’ll likely be more active at night when there are fewer prying eyes.
“Hope springs eternal,” he said.