Sloth delivered via first successful C-section

The baby sloth explores her new world.
SAM TRULL/SUPPLIED

The baby sloth explores her new world.

This article was first posted on Mashable.com

Veterinarians in Costa Rica earlier this month attempted to save the lives of a three-toed, brown-necked sloth and her unborn baby by performing a caesarean operation. While the October 1 operation was successful, both the mother and baby sloth died shortly following the procedure.

Sam Trull, the wildlife manager at the Kids Saving the Rainforest clinic and founder of the Sloth Institute Costa Rica, detailed the story of the sloths on her blog, providing heart-breaking pictures of the adorable animals.

The mother sloth awaiting her ultrasound.
SAM TRULL

The mother sloth awaiting her ultrasound.

The pregnant sloth was taken to Trull's clinic after falling from a tree. The sloth was suffering from seizures - "true to sloth nature, it was a 'slow' seizure," Trull writes - but the mother did not have a fractured skull. A few days after entering the clinic, the sloth went into labour.

Trull took the animal to another veterinarian, Yesse Alpizar. Alpizar soon realized the sloth could not deliver the baby herself because of a full bladder and the baby being in a breech position. 

A full bladder might not sound like a major issue, but sloths can hold as much as a third of their body weight in urine and feces. They empty that cache rarely, in a slow process that involves something resembling a dance. So with a full bladder that was unlikely to empty on its own, the vets knew that the baby would never have the room it needed to turn into position for the birth. 

Sam Trull warming the baby sloth with her body heat.
SUPPLIED

Sam Trull warming the baby sloth with her body heat.

So Alpizar administered a general anaesthetic, manually drained the bladder and cut into the womb, delivering the baby in a 30-minute procedure, the BBC reports. Trull then held the infant against her chest, using "skin-to-skin" contact to keep it warm.

To warm the cold preemie, Trull held the infant against her chest - a method used to warm up hypothermic human babies.

While the delivery itself was a success, the baby showed heart, lung and feeding problems and died a week later. The mother died the next day of a stroke.

Mother and baby cuddle after surgery
SAM TRULL

Mother and baby cuddle after surgery

Trull writes in her blog:

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I've seen a lot of animals pass away during the two years that I've worked in wildlife rescue here in Costa Rica and after each death I often think, 'How can I keep doing this? It's too hard,' but somehow I find the will to keep fighting. That day, I wanted to keep fighting for this mom and her unborn baby, my gut told me not to give up.

-Mashable.com/with The Washington Post

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