First Ever Sloth Born by C-Section

Image: Primatography/WWF Australia FB

The first ever sloth cesarean section was performed in Costa Rica in an effort to save a mother and baby after the mother fell out of a tree.

Sam Trull, co-founder of Sloth Institute Costa Rica, received a call from a local hotel worker who reported that a sloth appeared to be injured after falling out of a tree in Manuel Antonio.

The sloth turned out to be a female brown-throated sloth, the most common of the three-toed sloths.

tmp518088937336471552Brown-throated sloth

When Sam arrived, the injured animal was seizing and had difficulty moving her limbs.

She explained to BBC Earth, “Seizures are normally indicative of some kind of brain injury and we knew she had fallen out of a tree. In the case of a skull fracture, we usually euthanize pretty much right away, but I checked her skull and it wasn’t fractured. It was then I realized she was pregnant.”

After three days of treatment for her injuries, she started showing signs of labor, and Sam could feel the baby kicking. A full exam, CT scan and X-ray revealed that the baby was in a breech position (bottom-first instead of head-first). To make matters worse, the mother’s bladder was completely full which prevented the baby from moving from this position. (Sloths only empty their bladders and bowels once a week.)

It was at this time that the team at the Institute determined that the situation was now an emergency. “The only chance we had to save either or both of them was to do a C-section,” Sam reported.

The C-section was successful, and mother and baby initially seemed to be doing well. The day following surgery, the mother began eating and she looked significantly better. However, she still had neurological symptoms and was unable to properly care for the baby. The baby was also struggling with its own problems: he had a heart murmur, possible lung problems, and was not feeding properly.

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In an unfortunate turn, the baby died one week after birth; the mother had a stroke and died one day later.

Trull explained that while the circumstances were devastating, they were not surprising. She said, “Ultimately it’s not the quantity of life that counts but the quality. I’m glad he had a week, and that he had some snuggles with his mom. I was at least able to unite mother and baby before they died, so it might not have been a very long life but at least it was a life.”

We are so grateful for the team’s effort to save those two lives!

Watch the C-section here (warning, graphic footage):

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