Wright Park Zoo welcomes new sloth

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe
The Wright Park Zoo has welcomed a new two-toed sloth to its facilities.

Dodge City gains a new resident as the Wright Park Zoo welcomes a new sloth to its enclosures.

The female Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth is about one and a half years old and comes from the Barn Hill Preserve in Ethel, La.

The Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth, also known as the southern two-toed sloth, unau or Linne’s two-toed sloth, is a species found in the northern part of South America in such countries as Guyana, Colombia and Brazil, north of the Amazon River, and are named for the two curved claws on each front foot. They are mostly nocturnal.

“The idea to bring a new addition to the Wright Park Zoo came from our zoo consultant that we are working with on the Redo the Zoo project,” said assistant city manager Melissa McCoy.

The Friends of Wright Park Zoo will eventually hold a naming contest for the sloth with three names for the public to vote on.

“We threw around lots of ideas, but in the end, we wanted something unique but also something we could take care of, feed, and house without undergoing a huge project right before we get our Redo the Zoo plan underway,” said Friends of Wright Park Zoo president Jill Ewy.

The female sloth lives in an enclosure in the zoo barn that was painted by local artist Inga Ojala, next to the capuchin monkeys and across from the lemurs.

While not part of the original master plan for the Redo the Zoo Project, the sloth enclosure is a welcome addition as part of the developing Viva Kansas Area of the zoo since she comes from South America.

COVID-19 had impeded the Redo the Zoo Project but only set it a little behind schedule.

“Compared to many other zoos across the world, the Wright Park Zoo has been affected very minimally by COVID-19,” said Hannah Shroeder, head zookeeper of Wright Park Zoo.

From March to June of 2020, the zoo was closed to the public, but staff still worked full time taking care of the animals.

Since reopening, staff has continued working full time with extra precautions in place, including masks, extra barriers around animals susceptible to COVID-19 and maintaining social distancing.

Financially the zoo has been supported by the city of Dodge City and the Friends of Wright Park Zoo, and aside from the few months of no visitors, the animals and staff have seen no difference in their daily routines.

The city also said in an email that the search for the new parks and facilities director concluded earlier in December.

Troy Brown, the former director of parks and facilities, retired from the position on Dec. 25.

Some of Brown’s most notable accomplishments during his time as parks and facilities director include completion of the Redo the Zoo master plan, development of the initial classroom space for the University Center and Kansas Law Enforcement Center, and overall signage improvements to the Mariah Hills Golf Course, St. Mary’s Soccer Complex and Dodge City parks.

The city had received several applications from across Kansas and the U.S., and the hiring committee selected a finalist from among them who is currently completing the hiring process.

“Once the hiring process has been finalized, the city will release additional details about the candidate,” said assistant city manager Ernestor De La Rosa.

Along with the new addition of the sloth enclosure, the Wright Park Zoo is currently looking at adding more surprises in the next six to nine months, which according to Ewy is expected to move the Redo the Zoo project forward without affecting future construction.