Wild Inside: Hanging out with Joe the Sloth

See how Zoo Knoxville cares for Joe, the four-year-old two-toed sloth.
Go Wild Inside Zoo Knoxville to learn all about Joe the Sloth!
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 11:53 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Nestled up high inside Zoo Knoxville’s Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Campus, Joe the two-toed sloth usually lays fast asleep.

To get a glimpse of the four-year-old zoo favorite when he’s not in a deep slumber, you’ll need to make it inside the ARC at 10:00 a.m. when zoo staff wake him up and give him his breakfast!

Brad Parsons works with the Wild Encounters team at Zoo Knoxville, and is one of the keepers in charge of looking after Joe.

“So he’ll come out, he’ll eat as much as he wants for breakfast, and then once he’s done, he immediately climbs straight up, curls up and goes to sleep!” Parsons said.

Joe likes to spend time in his tree, Parsons said, but gets social every now and again.

“He has full access to his exhibit, but we typically bring him out at 10:00 a.m.,” Parsons said. “He likes to spend his early mornings kind of hanging out inside this tree, but then he likes to grace everyone with his slow presence.”

Almost everything about Joe is slow, much like you would anticipate from a sloth, and that lack of speed applies to much more than just his movements. For example, the humidity of the ARC may not be everyone’s favorite, but Joe loves it.

“Sloths metabolism is so slow that they aren’t really able to regulate their own body temperature,” said Parsons. Where he lacks in speed, Joe makes up for it in his ability to hang on, and hang out all day.

“He’s able to hang his entire body weight just from those hind limbs,” said Parsons. “It is a great way for me to get a full visual of his body just to make sure that he is in good shape, good condition. It’s also just a fun behavior for people to see because he is able to just hang that entire body just from those hind limbs.”

Joe is a two-toed sloth from northern South America. The two-toed sloths are classified as ‘least concerned’ in terms of their species survival rate, which is great news for Joe and his sloth friends around the world.

“The big thing that’s impacting them is the illegal wildlife trade,” said Parsons. “Sadly, they are often sought after for the illegal pet trade, and it’s estimated that only about 10% of this loss that are stolen from the wild actually end up surviving be sold as a pet.”

To learn more about Joe, take your friends and family to the ARC at Zoo Knoxville! You can see more about everything the zoo has to offer by clicking here.