Wednesday, 22. May 2013 - 05:05
24. 07. 12. - 13:00
Dutch girl Lieke proved a life saver for this baby sloth after she offered her keeper dad her favourite teddy bear to act as a surrogate mum.
Baby sloth Sjakie started to waste away almost as soon as it was born at the Burgers' Zoo in Arnhem - and keepers realised that her mother was not producing enough milk.
But hand feeding the infant also failed as the youngster refused to nurse when not able to cuddle.
Lieke's dad, keeper Boudewijn Stenbreker, 37, said: "Baby sloths need to cuddle, especially when they nurse. We knew it needed to take milk from a syringe but without mum there it was not interested."
He said that they had the idea of using a teddy bear but none of the soft toys in the zoo shop had worked. Then two-and-a-half-year-old Lieke offered her bear, and keepers decided to give it a try after hoping that maybe the baby sloth needed the smell of a used bear.
And it worked.
Dad Boudewijn said: "Lieke was delighted. Sjakie took to the unnamed bear as if it was its own mum and now grasps it while zookeepers feed the baby extra milk as well as liquidised vegetables.
Zookeepers plan to use the experiment again saying that Sjakie's parents lost another baby in 2011, just a week after it was born.
The only drawback is that Lieke may not get her original bear back.
Baby Sjakie has often urinated on the stuffed animal and although the baby doesn't seem to mind the smell, it is unlikely to go down well at the Boudewijn household.
The zoo has however purchased a second similar teddy and handed it to Lieke for safe keeping - in case it is also needed next year.
And when not with the surrogate mum, Sjakie is with its real mother who still takes care of her baby.
Keepers still don't know, however, whether Sjakie is a male or a female. Because sloths' genitals are inside their bodies, they will need a sonogram to determine its gender.
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