Meet the Jersey Shore’s newest resident – his name is Wally, and he fits in just fine! He lives right off the beach, sleeps most of the day and stays in the warmth all the time.
Wally is a two-toed sloth who arrived at Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach in May. He’s made a few public appearances, but the animal care staff at the aquarium is slowly making sure he gets used to humans. Eventually, he’ll have his own special area in the aquarium and will tour local schools and events to promote rainforest protection.
Wally, who is two years old, came to Jenkinson’s Aquarium from a zoo in Minnesota. And once he’s acclamated to his new environment, he’ll begin a special mission here at the Jersey Shore. While sloths are not endangered themselves, their habitat is threatened, said Carlo DiMicco, mammals manager at Jenkinson’s Aquarium. The very fact that sloths live most of their lives upside-down mean they need trees in which to live. The “toes” on the two-toed sloth serve dual purposes.
“Their claws are mainly used to hang onto things,” said DiMicco, including food as well as branches. Their claws “lock” in place so they do not need to expend muscle power to keep hanging. In the wild, he said, there have been cases where elderly sloths have died while still latched onto trees. The claws are also involved in self-defense, though not in the way many would think. Instead of being used for fighting, wrapping themselves around a tree branch allows a sloth to blend in with the trees and fool animals who may want to cause them harm.
Many sloths in captivity have been named Flash or Chewbacca after movie portrayals. Flash was preferred name at first, but to be different, Jenkinson’s staff went in a slightly different direction.
“We named him Wally after Wally West,” said DiMicco, after the first “Kid Flash” in the DC Comics series.
The aquarium is currently setting up a special area on its top floor where Wally will spend most of days hanging around and, of course, taking naps. For now, he’s staying in a makeshift jungle in the aquarium’s basement, complete with his own bathtub and branches from which to hang.
There isn’t an exact date as to when Wally will begin greeting visitors on a daily basis, but generally the staff tries to take him out once per day for a little while to show him off and get him used to having an audience.
“Hopefully within the next couple of weeks he’ll be on exhibit for a few hours per day, mostly from 2 to 5 [p.m.] or a 3 to 6 [p.m.] time frame,” said DiMicco.
After the busy summer season, Wally will settle in for longer periods of time and begin his outreach trips.