July 24, 2012 at 11:17 AM ET
Baby humans aren’t the only little ones who love teddy bears. A baby sloth in the Netherlands has adopted a light-brown teddy bear as his companion.
Two-month-old Sjakie (pronounced Shak-ie) had to be taken away from his mother when he was a few weeks old, after zookeepers realized he wasn’t receiving enough milk to survive.
“For the first year of their lives, baby sloths use their sharp claws to cling to their mothers,” Wineke Schoo, a biologist at Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem told TODAY.com. “It’s a natural reflex that they have that needs to be filled, especially early on. We tried out several of our stuffed animals from the zoo gift shops, but he didn’t really take to any of them.”
Every evening Sjakie accompanied a zookeeper home to receive his regular milk feeds. The zookeeper’s daughter gave the baby sloth her favorite teddy bear as a present, and Skjakie immediately took to his new toy. Weeks later, the newborn sloth still clings his favorite teddy day and night.
“We have an identical bear that we give to him when his teddy is in the wash, but he really knows the difference,” said Schoo. “We think this one must be exactly the right size for him, and the fur the right texture and length for him. I have seen baby sloths cling to blankets in the past, but a teddy seems a relatively novel solution.”
As Sjakie gets older, he will slowly start to separate from the teddy. He is already receiving a diet of cooked vegetables in addition to milk.
Sjakie was the third baby to be born to his mother, Gema. Two other babies passed away early on, due to a lack of milk, zookeepers believe, so when Sjapie was born, they kept a close watch on him, and were able to intervene before malnutrition set in.
Rachel Elbaum is a London-based writer who may have to make a special trip to Arnhem to see Sjakie.