Trey, the Zoo’s first-ever sloth baby born in 2020, found new independence from mom Honey and dad Mervin a few months ago, and is officially living the bachelorette life! While she still lives next door to her parents, Trey has been learning the ropes (literally) of not only her new exhibit space, but other areas within the Zoo, with the hopes of Trey becoming a new Virginia Zoo Program Animal Ambassador for her species.
As you can imagine, some aspects of training have been slow, keeping in mind that training for Trey is completely voluntary and at her pace. Her team of trainers currently consists of three Rover Zoo Keepers – Kelsie, Matt and Kristin.
Training is beneficial to all aspects of an animal’s life. Training Trey to voluntarily be lifted or touched for medical routines minimizes the stress that vet procedures often cause. Training as a whole helps her gain confidence in herself, builds relationships with Keepers and allows Trey to be an ambassador for her species when interacting with guests. Behind the scenes tours are the big picture Keepers are trying to get her ready for, making sure she does not feel the stress of meeting new people, experiencing new sounds, smells and sights, as well as new environments she may visit!
Behaviors her Keepers are currently working with her to learn include voluntarily coming out of her basket or hammock onto a perch, touching a target pole, desensitization to touch, lifting and moving her for future transport and a Keeper-favorite behavior: painting! According to her Keepers, all of these behaviors are progressing nicely, but at “sloth speed”!
Training sessions are offered three times a day, and as a reward for her participation, Trey receives a variety of fruits and veggies as well as canned primate diet. The foods that motivate her the most are red and green peppers, sweet potato, pear, cucumber and squash!
While many of the Zoo’s animal ambassadors live behind-the-scenes, Trey lives in an exhibit in the World of Reptiles. As she becomes more comfortable, she will be visiting new areas of the Zoo and potentially venture off-grounds for future programs! Trey recently had her first overnight stay at the Program Animal Building while her exhibit underwent routine maintenance, and Keepers say she appeared to enjoy exploring her temporary housing.
When she isn’t training, Trey can be spotted napping or hanging out in the World of Reptiles, but Zoo visitors may expect to soon see her out and about on Zoo grounds or even be able to see her up-close during a private tour! Stay tuned!