KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Thursday was a special day at Zoo Knoxville when people gathered to celebrate the birthday of one of their slowest moving and sleepiest animals — Joe Sloth.
He turned 3 years old on Thursday and the zoo celebrated with a classic birthday party. Joe Sloth even got a special cake with frosting made of sweet potatoes and layers of his favorite foods.
He climbed out from his enclosure to enjoy the treat as a crowd watched and sang him "Happy Birthday."
Joe has been with the zoo for around 2 years, according to one of his zookeepers. He arrived in November 2020 and moved into the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation campus when it opened in 2021.
The climate on the campus closely matches his native habitat — the tree canopies of Central and South America. He's a Linnaeus Two-Toed Sloth that mostly eats fruits, leaves and insects. They are considered one of the slowest mammals in the world, and Joe has been known to sleep for around 15 hours a day. Sometimes, he can sleep as many as 20 hours per day, the zoo said.
Usually, Linnaeus Two-Toes Sloths reach maturity between 2-and-a-half and 4 years old. So, part of Thursday's celebration was meant to highlight Joe reaching adulthood.
"Some sloths develop a little quicker, while some sloths take their time a little bit," said one of the zookeepers. "Being a young individual, he definitely has a big personality. He's very curious, loves engaging with people with different enrichment items, and he's pretty smart."
He also has a reputation as a troublemaker at Zoo Knoxville, according to a zookeeper. They said that when he first arrived, he started exploring areas of the ARC campus that he wasn't supposed to get into. As a result, the zoo had to renovate the area twice.
"He was showing off just how far these guys will reach to get to areas that they really want to go to," they said.