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The best of friends! Five-month-old baby forms incredible bond with pet sloth called Daisy.
Daisy and Alia - Friends forever
Daisy is almost like a real-life teddy bear for five-month-old Alia and the pair love to play and take naps together.
Alia's parents Julia Heckathorn, 29 and Jason, 35, from Virginia, brought Alia home from the hospital the same day they welcomed four-month-old Daisy into their home.
The couple already own a kangaroo called Boomeroo, an anteater called Noche, sugar gliders and a cat called Larry.
Julia writes and illustrates a series of children's books called Search for the Hidden Clover, which chronicle the adventures of animals in a bid to educate children about the importance of caring for the environment.
Boomeroo, Noche, Daisy, and Dexter the sugar glider are all characters in her books.
Julia also visits schools across America where she reads books from the Hidden Clover series, gives talks about conservation and enables students to meet their favourite characters from the books.
The couple had been looking for a sloth to expand their educational team when Julia fell pregnant with her first child, Alia.
And Julia said it felt like fate that they had welcomed their first baby and first sloth into their home on the same day.
Julia said: 'We had been looking for a US born, well raised and healthy baby sloth suitable for children's education for four years.
'It just so happened that the first one available to us was born just after I became pregnant with Alia, and ready for a new home just as Alia was born.
'Alia was two weeks late in arriving, and there was only one day we were able to have Daisy travel to us due to the weather warming up for the summer.
'So I believe that the events happened as God planned them. I guess he knew we could handle the work of two babies at the same time, and that it would be great for them to grow up together.
'When Alia and Daisy sit next to each other, Daisy sniffs Alia while Alia nuzzles into Daisy's soft fur. They are so sweet together.
'They even wear the same coloured flower head pieces in their hair. Boomeroo, our kangaroo still comes into my office and hangs out with us too.
'Boomeroo walks up to Alia, puts her hands on her and sniffs her as Alia chuckles.'
Together Julia and Jason also conduct school and community events in Panama and Peru during conservation and missions trips to spread the love of nature and reading.
Daisy is now accompanying them and Alia on their school visits and it is during their time together on these trips that Alia and Daisy have grown closer.
Julia said: 'There are challenges to being an author with many animals, as well as two new babies that just want to be held and snuggled.
'But the challenges are also joys that allow me to teach my own child to love and care for the natural world.
'The sloth and baby have been growing up together, taking walks together, and working alongside mummy as I write my books and travel to schools.
'It may sound like an unusual situation, but the look on the school children's faces as they meet their favorite book characters in real life are priceless.
'These are memories that will stick with those children for a lifetime.'
Watch online Nature's episode
on a sloth named Velcro.
In 2000 in the jungles of Panama, a young journalist, named Ana, has a chance encounter with a tiny orphaned sloth, which she names Velcro. For nearly two years, the pair is inseparable until finally Ana travels up a remote river to reintroduce Velcro back to the wild.
This is the story Ana’s return to Central and South America to see how much has changed since Velcro came into her life. Sloths, once largely ignored, have become a hot topic of scientific researchers. New studies are showing that they’re not so sloth-like after all, that they have social structures, they move like primates, and that males keep small harems.
Sloth sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers are also springing up throughout the Americas as development displaces these gentle creatures. Shot on location in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia this is a story of friendship and a growing network of people working to learn more about sloths in order to protect them.
Online viewing may be restricted if you are not in the US
So here is a short video about Velcro the sloth
The show's preview
There is an illegal market for baby sloths, but they are extremely demanding as babies. The episode tells of how their human adopted mothers had to carry them along all the time in order to keep them alive.
It is cruel and very often fatal to separate baby sloths from their mothers.
Sloths Are Number One on the List of Illegally Traded Pets from Colombia
While Asian trade mostly stems from a desire for exotic meat and medicinal ingredients, in Colombia the pet trade rules the market
According to an ABC story that followed up on the investigation, animal trafficking now ranks just after gun and drug sales as the most profitable illegal industry in Colombia. Colorful birds, monkeys and sloths turn up in markets in the country and also make their way into the U.S.
An estimated 60,000 animals were trafficked last year alone, including a growing number of sloths.
In what is now considered the biggest exotic pet seizure in American history, 27,000 animals, including several sloths, were rescued from a pet distributor in Arlington, Texas, in 2009. Undercover video shot by PETA members showed that the sloths were kept in filthy cages that lacked the necessary equipment for the animals to survive in captivity, including heat lamps and humidifiers. The bodies of several sloths were later found in the facility’s freezer.
Sloths may be cute and gentle, but they are notoriously finicky animals. Their leaf-based diet includes around 40 rainforest plants.
Their specialized digestive systems host symbiotic bacteria that break down the tough leaves, and they can take up to a month to digest a single meal.
On their own, none of the six sloth species can survive outside of a tropical rainforest.
It is illegal to sell wildlife in Colombia, but ABC reports that one region, Cordoba, has become a hot spot of illegal activity. Police turn a blind eye and, according to ABC’s local guide, paramilitary groups still largely control the area. On the streets, sloths sell for about $30 each. From the investigation, ABC reports:
When a car suddenly pulled up next to us, the traffickers scattered, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Supposedly, it was the mayor of a nearby town who wanted to take a photo with the sloth.
Then, we got word of another suspected trafficker who had sloths for sale outside of a house. When we arrived, a family of pale-throated sloths, a mother with two babies, was being sold together, all three kept in one crate.
The team wound up purchasing the sloth family for $125 and turned them over to a local conservationists for release back into the wild. While purchasing animals from illegal traders is not a long-term solution and in some ways only perpetuates the trade, that sloth family, at least, got a second chance.
Photo of sloth Thowra_UK
More on sloths - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth