With the help of more than 81,000 people, the Sloth Habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is given a new name in memory of one of the exhibit’s biggest fans.
The exhibit will now be dubbed “Oliver Nicholson’s Memorial Sloth Habitat” after the toddler who adored his favorite sloth stuffed animal. Oliver died in February 2021 from complications after a routine procedure, but his name will live on, according to a announcement done on October 11, which would have been Oliver’s second birthday.
“Oliver and his twin, Atticus, were born on October 11, 2019, seven weeks premature,” said Alex Nicholson, Oliver’s father, in a Press release. “Oliver was diagnosed with the VACTERL association and has been in and out of Cincinnati Children’s during his short life. We got him a plush sloth during one of his hospital stays that he loved and slept with every night.
In May 2021, the zoo asked the public for their help in choosing a name for a sloth baby who was to become the first sloth born at the facility. In response, Nicholson’s family started a petition to name the baby puppy. But the future mother Lightning book a stillborn puppy on October 10, prompting the zoo to find a new way to incorporate Oliver’s legacy.
“We had been in contact with the zoo and had discussed other ways to honor Oliver,” Nicholson said. “This tribute will be lasting and mean so much. This gives us a huge ray of hope on a particularly difficult day and positive news to share with the 80,000 people who signed our petition. “
VACTERL stands for vertebral malformations, anal atresia, heart defects, tracheoesophageal fistula, kidney anomalies and limb abnormalities. It is a rare and sporadic disease in which associated developmental abnormalities usually develop before birth, which the United States National Library of Medicine noted causes birth defects that affect multiple systems in the body.
According to Change.org petitionOliver was born with a hand and the inability to swallow, among other developmental defects. The newborn spent his first five months at the Cincinnati Children’s NICU before returning home after two failed attempts to connect his esophagus to his stomach.
“When he got home, Oliver quickly started catching up with his twin and was the happiest boy you’ve ever met. He learned to sit, move, stand and almost walk. He did it all with just 2 inches and a forefinger. Oliver’s vocal cords were paralyzed but he still learned to say hello, mom and dad, ”the petition reads.
Oliver underwent surgery to connect his esophagus to his stomach in January 2021 and while recovering, the infant was given a sloth stuffed animal. On February 17, Oliver underwent anesthesia for a routine procedure to check his esophagus in which complications resulted in bleeding around his heart. Oliver’s parents said that during his visit, attendees mentioned that a sloth at the zoo was pregnant.
“Everyone was saying it was a sign and speculating he would be named Oliver. We later found out that Lightning was a two-fingered sloth that sort of looked like Oliver’s hand with only two fingers, ”the petition reads. “We always have his favorite stuffed animal sloth with us and it reminds us that he’s always here with us.”
“The excitement for the birth of sloths ends sadly at the Cincinnati Zoo.” Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden®, http://cincinnatizoo.org/news-releases/excitement-for-sloth-birth-comes-to-a-sad-end-at-the-cincinnati-zoo/. Accessed October 15, 2021.
“Oliver Nicholson will be commemorated in Sloth Habitat.” Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, http://cincinnatizoo.org/news-releases/oliver-nicholson-to-be-memorialized-in-sloth-habitat/. Accessed October 15, 2021.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, http://cincinnatizoo.org/news-releases/oliver-nicholson-to-be-memorialized-in-sloth-habitat/. Accessed October 15, 2021.
“Sign the petition.” Change.Org, https://www.change.org/p/cincinnati-zoo-botanical-garden-name-the-baby-sloth-after-oliver. Accessed October 15, 2021.
Change.Org, https://www.change.org/p/cincinnati-zoo-botanical-garden-name-the-baby-sloth-after-oliver. Accessed October 15, 2021.
VACTERL Association: MedlinePlus Genetics. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/vacterl-association/. Accessed October 15, 2021.