An Ohio zoo's sloth habitat named after late toddler who loved sloths

"This tribute will be lasting and means so much. It gives us a huge bright spot on an especially difficult day."


The Cincinnati Zoo has named its sloth habitat after a 1-year-old boy who died earlier this year after a battle with a rare disorder.

Oliver Nicholson, from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, would have been 2 years old on Monday — a day that the zoo renamed its sloth habitat "The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat."

“Oliver and his twin, Atticus, were born on Oct. 11, 2019, seven weeks premature,” said Alex Nicholson, Oliver’s father. “Oliver was diagnosed with VACTERL association and was in and out of Cincinnati Children’s during his short life. We gave him a stuffed sloth during one of his hospital stays which he adored and slept with every night.”

Oliver also had a "hang in there" sloth balloon that hung in his room at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where he stayed in its neonatal intensive care unit for five months.

Oliver was born with one hand and three total fingers. He also had pig bronchus, long gap TEF, right aortic arch heart, one kidney, narrow airways and a few other issues.

He died on Feb. 17.

Days later while at Oliver's visitation, Nicholson said people started coming up to the family to tell them that there was a sloth pregnant at the Cincinnati Zoo. Oliver's family learned that the pregnant sloth Lightning was a two-toed sloth, which in a way resembled Oliver's one hand with two fingers.

The boy's family petitioned that the zoo name its future sloth baby in memory of Oliver. Sadly, the zoo announced Sunday that the sloth was stillborn.

Instead, the zoo decided to name its entire new habitat after Oliver.

“We had been in contact with the zoo and had discussed other ways that we could honor Oliver,” said Nicholson. “This tribute will be lasting and means so much. It gives us a huge bright spot on an especially difficult day and some positive news to share with the 80,000 people who signed our petition.”

Lightning, the mother of the sloth baby, is currently in the zoo’s Animal Ambassador Center but will likely be reunited with Moe, her 22-year-old companion, in The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat at some point in the future.