How a Baby Sloth Captured My Heart at National Aviary

There are moments in my life as a travel writer that I have to pinch myself. And, although these moments are happily more frequent and you’d think I’d acclimate to such pinch-worthy moments, any chance to even see a sloth and I’m ready to jump up and down or cry depending on what second it is. Last week, National Aviary gave us the opportunity to get up close with Valentino, the zoo’s resident baby sloth, to feed, pet, and learn all about their new little heart breaker. The best part? Anyone can have a the same bucket list experience! Ready to make a reservation? Here’s what goes down.

Meet Valentino

Baby sloth National Aviary

As a traveling family, we’ve had opportunities to visit sloths (remember this encounter with Guy and Ana at Wild Florida?), but we’ve never had the pleasure of having a baby sloth meet and greet- until last week. National Aviary’s Baby Sloth Encounter has been incredibly popular; so popular, in fact, that the accredited zoo is taking reservations into December 2016.

The Kid and I, along with all of the other sloth lovers, had to wait our turn until Valentino (named by an anonymous donor), the Linneaus’s Two-Toed Sloth, came to National Aviary right around Valentine’s Day, hence the sweet name. To give you the quick scoop, Baby Sloth Encounters occur at the zoo every day except for Tuesdays, have a maximum of six guests per encounter, and need to be booked well in advance.

What Happens at a Sloth Encounter?

Sloth Encounter National Aviary

There’s a really good reason why National Aviary is offering meet and greets with Valentino. The other resident sloth, Wookie, has a super laid back job of hanging out in his habitat everyday, but Valentino is being raised as an educational sloth. Once he’s gets bigger and older, he’ll travel to schools or be the guest of honor in Aviary teaching sessions in the hopes that both kids and adults will learn more about the mammal and his natural habitat. To ease him into his position, daily encounters with sloth lovers help him to acclimate into his new role as an animal ambassador.

Sloth Encounter

During the Sloth Encounter guests are able to feed and pet Valentino, and take as many photos as their cameras will allow. The encounter is very low key and sweet, and while guests are getting their chance to feed and pet the baby, the zoo trainers happily chat away with sloth facts, answer questions, and offer cute insights into the life of a baby sloth. It turns out that Valentino sleeps most of the day, so the keepers wake him up for several feedings each day and time the encounter to fit in with his schedule.

What do two-toed sloths eat? I was surprised to learn that sloths are omnivores and eat a little bit of everything. They’ll eat bird eggs, leaves, and fruit when found in the wild. Right now, Valentino’s diet consists of veggies, leafy greens, and special dietary biscuits.

Why the name sloth? Another tidbit I picked up was the fact that sloths were named so more for their digestive habits than their personalities. They have a super slow metabolism and basically use the process of fermentation to digest. Nocturnal by nature, they can move pretty quickly- and even faster when in danger or provoked.

Honestly, I didn’t want the encounter to end, but the little guy was tuckered out and ready to nap.

Sloth Encounters: What You Need to Know

Valentino Sloth National Aviary

Via National Aviary’s website on Sloth Encounters:

Encounters occur daily, except on Tuesdays, at 2:00 p.m. Please arrive by 1:45pm to check in.

You’ll have the opportunity to meet Valentino, as well as:
•    Touch the baby sloth
•    Feed the baby sloth
•    Take photos
•    Learn more about the baby sloth’s up-bringing
•    Learn about other sloths and sloth conservation

Attendees of all ages welcome! Children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Group size limited to six people.

Information and Pricing:

Please call 412-258-9445 to register. $150 per person.
Advance registration recommended. Programs can sell out months in advance. Tickets for Interactive Encounters are non-refundable and non-transferrable to a different day/time.

Is the price worth the experience? In my sloth-loving opinion- YES! No question.

Sloth Encounter Pin

Disclosure: The Kid and I were hosted by National Aviary to give you fine folks the scoop on what makes its Baby Sloth Encounter so much fun for guests. I was not asked to state a particular point of view and all opinions are my own!

Have you ever had an encounter with a sloth? Please let me know when and where in the comment section below!

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