Excitement for Sloth Birth Comes to a Sad End at the Cincinnati Zoo

Posted October 10, 2021

CINCINNATI, OH (October 10, 2021) — Months of anticipation and excitement surrounding the birth of what would have been Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s first sloth baby ended early this morning when Lightning delivered a stillborn pup.  Vets and care staff were present for the hours-long labor and are devastated by the outcome.

            “This was an incredibly tough day for our Zoo team and our Zoo community, and I’m saddened for our zookeepers that have given so much to Lightning during her pregnancy,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of ambassador animals & outreach, Meredith Hughes.  “Even in this tough time, this team has shown incredible resiliency and exceptional dedication to the animals in their care. While this result was not what we had hoped, their focus has shifted to making sure that Lightning remains healthy and comfortable in the weeks ahead.”

            Lightning would have been a first time mom.  She did well throughout her pregnancy and the baby seemed fine, with a heartbeat visible on multiple ultrasounds, in the months leading up to today.

            “With any pending birth, we prepare for all possible scenarios,” said David Orban, Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal science & strategy. “We knew this could happen but had no indication that it would. With months of preparation from our zookeepers, curators, veterinary team, neonate specialist, nutritionist, and Zoo volunteer observers, we all felt ready to go and were looking forward to welcoming a healthy baby.”

            Lightning is resting in the Zoos Animal Ambassador Center (AAC), where she has been cared for during most of her pregnancy.  She will remain there for now but will likely be reunited with Moe, her 22-year-old companion, at some point in the future.  He is currently in the Zoo’s Discovery Forest.