Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society celebrates the life of Tootsie, a 46-year-old Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, who passed away due to natural causes. She was surrendered to Lincoln Park Zoo in 1976 by a private citizen making her the oldest sloth currently in managed care. Her longevity is due to the exceptional nutrition and veterinary care she received over her lifetime. The median life expectancy in the wild for a sloth is 15 years and Tootsie far surpassed this milestone.
Tootsie came to Palm Beach Zoo in 1985, when Ronald Regan was president, gas cost $1.12 per gallon, and Coca Cola launched New Coke. She shared the habitat with her partner, Dustin, for the last 23 years. To aid in her comfort during her later years, Tootsie received cold laser therapy and fluid treatments. These cutting-edge treatments happened in full view of the public, which provided an up-close animal care experience for visitors to the Zoo.
“The guests enjoyed watching Tootsie get her treatments, and we had a member of our team outside the sloth habitat explaining what was happening. Tootsie would move as quickly as a sloth can to get into position, as these treatments are so comforting,” said Director of Animal Care Dr. Kathleen Woodie.
Cold laser therapy is a treatment using low level light to treat a number of ailments. It aids in healing of wounds, skin issues, arthritis pain and more by increasing regeneration at the cellular level. Several Zoo animals are currently being treated with laser therapy, including Kadar our Malayan tiger for arthritis in his back and legs.
“Whether it is a box turtle or a tiger, we put our all into caring for the Zoo’s animal residents. We work on preventative medicine and their emotional and mental health as well,” said President and CEO Margo McKnight. “The trust between the animals and the zoologists is important as the animals practice behaviors leading to their voluntary participation in their own healthcare. They will present a limb or tail for an injection, and they will remain still for laser therapy sessions.”
Sloths in the Wild
Palm Beach Zoo’s sloths Dustin and Wilbur will continue to raise awareness for their wild family members. Sloths live in trees in the tropical and cloud forests of Central and South America, where their habitats are decreasing due to deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction. Man-made infrastructure like power lines and roads also threaten sloths. For their continued survival in the wild, children and adults in their home countries must be educated about their importance to the ecosystem. Creating respect for sloths is challenging for all who care about these unique and important animals.
A visit to Palm Beach Zoo helps wildlife in wild places by supporting the animals in its care and funding important field work to preserve life in the wild. To give to the Zoo and help us care for wildlife like sloths, please visit our website www.palmbeachzoo.org
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