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Family hopes Cincinnati Zoo names new baby sloth after their late son

Posted at 5:46 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 09:03:03-04

CINCINNATI — A Tri-State family hopes the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will name the zoo's new baby sloth after their son who died in early 2021.

Alex Nicholson said when his twin sons, Oliver and Atticus, were born, they were seven weeks early, and Oliver was born with medical problems which kept him in the hospital. Oliver had one kidney, heart issues, limb disabilities and his esophagus wasn't connected to his stomach.

"I gave him a sloth and, I mean, he wrapped his arm around it and just snuggled it," Nicholson said. "He slept with it, he hung out with it.”

Oliver made some progress with his sloth by his side, and people started sending him sloth-related gifts. As he progressed, the nurses knew Oliver as the sloth kid.

"It just became a thing," Nicholson said. "He started getting ‘Get Well Soon’ cards with sloths on the front. I got him a big, I mean, a huge 4-foot by 2-foot sloth balloon and it was in his room.”

In January 2021, Oliver underwent a 12-hour surgery and survived. However, a routine medical procedure changed everything.

"They went in to inflate, to do a dilation of a balloon, and it ripped the side of his heart where it was healing and he bled and they couldn’t stop the bleeding and we lost him,” Nicholson said.

Oliver died on Feb. 17.

"I try not to look at it as the life I feel he was robbed of or the life he’s not going to live," Nicholson said. "We try to think of it as we had 16 months."

Now, Nicholson has created a petition to name the zoo's new baby sloth Oliver in order to keep his son's legacy alive for his brother and his friends and family. The petition almost had 35,000 signatures as of Friday morning.

"He touched so many different groups," Nicholson said. "We’re getting messages where, ‘If this happens, we’re coming to the zoo. We’re coming to Cincinnati. We’re coming to see Oliver’s sloth.'"

A zoo spokeswoman said they are aware of the petition, but they are not discussing names for the baby sloth until it's born.

"We really would have preferred everyone get to meet him a different way," Nicholson said. "But we’re overjoyed that his face and his name is out there, and people will get to know him.”