Not long ago, veterinarians in Costa Rica went out on a limb and performed the first ever caesarian section on a sloth to deliver a baby sloth.
The mother had fallen out of a tree and the only way to save her and her baby was with the surgery.
A hotel employee in Manuel Antonio discovered the injured mama, a common three-toed brown-throated sloth, and called Sam Trull, co-founder of Sloth Institute Costa Rica.
When Trull arrived on the scene, the sloth was having a seizure and looked to be in serious condition.
She told 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.
For three days, the sloth was treated for her injuries. Then, she went into labor. Trull felt the baby kicking.
After further examination, including CT scan and x-rays, Trull saw that the baby was in breech, meaning the baby was coming bottom-first instead of head-first. And, since sloths only empty their bladders and bowels once a week, the mother’s full bladder was preventing her baby from moving into a birthing position.
Clearly, the situation was an emergency. Trull and her team prepared for the only thing that could save mother and baby: birth by C-section.
The procedure seemed to be a success. Mom was moving around and eating. However, with her continued neurological problems, she couldn’t seem to properly care for her baby. The little one, too, was coping with a heart murmur, lung issues and an inability to eat very well.
Sadly, after a week, the baby died. A day later, the mother suffered a stroke and died as well.
But, as tragic as the end was, Trull wasn’t surprised and she has no regrets.
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.
For the short time these two animals were together, they were surrounded by caring and loving people, and they had each other. We, along with the Institute, are happy for their beautiful week of life.