By James Puppolo
It was Spring and the month of May on a warm sunny Saturday afternoon. The Prado family had just pulled into the parking lot of the Sacramento zoo. The kids had begged to get to visit the zoo as they had been informed of all its wonders and of new additions at school the week before. The clouds were moving in the sky, but the sun was fully out and working its magic. As the car was put into park a big day was before them.
“We’re here!” Matthias hollered with excitement. He’d had a zoo animal ambassador visit his class with a meerkat and had wanted to visit the zoo ever since. “I want to see the lions.” Matthias spoke with energy. The whole family had enjoyed Matthias’ sales pitch of visiting the zoo and he had learned already of so many animals.
“I want to see the sloth.” Lana said with confidence. She had learned through Matthias that the Sacramento zoo was receiving a sloth from Peru. The type of sloth was a Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth. Lana had spent some time with her mother learning and reading about sloths so she would be ready for her amazing encounter this weekend.
“Well, I want to see the snakes but the lions sound real good too.” Juan Carlos jokingly admitted. “I guess the birds sound fine for me.” Jen in return stated. They all then took off their seatbelts and opened their doors. There was an average line to get in. Most of the guests were adults with children this day.
“That will be $60.” The woman selling tickets told. “Is the sloth here?” Lana skeptically questioned while standing on her toes looking into the ticket booth. “Yes, as far as I know, he arrived here last night and is doing just fine.” The ticket seller informed with kindness. “Oh. I can’t wait. Yay!” Lana said with delight and glee smiling as she spoke.
Juan Carlos held Lana’s hand and Jen held Matthias’ at first as the kids were too rambunctious. Their parents didn’t want them running away and getting lost. They walked in but immediately saw the café and realized none of them had eaten yet. Lana grabbed at her belly and could feel how empty it was. “Can we please get something to eat?” Matthias impatiently asked. “We could go and have a bite.” Juan Carlos openly confessed. “We have the money for that.” He said. “Now, I’m real hungry.” Matthias pointed out. The family then walked over to the café. It stood with a nice scenic view of the giraffe enclosure to be enjoyed while you ate.
“So, what will be your order?” The cashier asked. “I think I’ll have the chicken sandwich.” Juan Carlos said famished. “I’ll take the spring salad.” Jen said hungerly. The two kids couldn’t make up their mind and so Jen ordered two cheeseburgers for them. They ate peacefully under a canopy while watching the giraffes. The giraffes were having fun nibbling the leaves off the trees in their enclosure. They were really tall standing at 20 feet or higher. With the three there, there was a baby calf giraffe. After eating, Lana had run over to the railing with Matthias behind her and they looked out at the giraffes. They were able to get the baby calf to walk over. It stuck out its black tongue and smiled, swaying its long neck side to side and up and down and then walked back to eat some fruit and leaves.
After everyone was done the family got up and decided on their next adventure. Matthias was the most aggressive and so the family decided on visiting the felines first. So, the used the map they had picked up at the ticket booth and made their way there.
Once at the feline exhibit, Matthias broke free from his father’s grip and ran to the railings. “I’ve got to see!” Matthias roared. He peered into the sunken down enclosure and saw what he had paid for. He could see a masculine male lion with a giant mane. There was only one male lion in the enclosure with three female lions. They all had lots of muscles but were just lazily enjoying the day, relaxed and calm in the shade under a tree. The male lion started prowling around the enclosure as if he was checking for a way out to get a live meal. There was a big piece of steak lying on the ground, but it seemed none of the lions were hungry for it. The lions had a mix of yellow, orange and light brown fur. You could see their powerful claws and big razor-sharp teeth. “Hey! Hey lion, are you going to eat that?” Matthias encouragingly questioned the lion. “Roar!!!” The male lion let out a loud roar after Matthias spoke leaving him a little shaken and he took several steps back.
There were other feline exhibits that intrigued Matthias and made Lana a little scared. There was a jaguar who was all black but slimmer then the lion and smaller but still had very dangerous teeth and claws. It also was walking around looking for something but would jump up on a tree branch every now and then. Also, there was a snow leopard which again was smaller than the jaguar. The snow leopard had all white fur with black spots and piercing blue eyes. “It says here the snow leopard usually lives in the mountains with lots of snow.” Jen educated the kids. “I didn’t know that.” Matthias responded eager to learn more.
After twenty minutes Matthias had gotten his fill. He had been awe struck by the might and size of the lions and other wild cats but was now growing bored. Lana knew what she wanted and started pulling on her mother’s shirt. “Can we go see the sloth now?” Lana keenly questioned. The family then noticed they were near the reptiles and snakes building. “Why don’t we pay a visit to see the snakes first.” Juan Carlos suggested.
Juan Carlos was happy to see all the exhibit had to offer. It had many lizards from all over the world that came in many different colors and sizes. They were walking all over their glass cases. Some sticking to the glass and others eating crickets that were dropped into the glass tanks for consumption. There were turtles and tortoises that were busy dipping into some water to stay cool or eating various leaves, fruit, and vegetables. One tortoise was out for you to be allowed to touch and the whole family had fun petting its giant shell.
But the one thing Juan Carlos wanted to see most was the snakes. They had some very interesting ones. There was a python that was bright green and was curled up and a ball. “Want to see Matthias?” Juan Carlos asked his son. “Okay, I think so.” Matthias unsurely answered. Juan Carlos then picked up his son to peer into the window with the giant python snake. It was tasting with its tongue the air and hissing about as the family looked on. The snake uncoiled and moved around some and slithered down a tree branch. Jen then picked up Lana so she could see too. That’s when the snake slid down to the ground of the cage and ate up the dead rat that was lying there. “Cool.” Matthias said. “Oh, gross.” Lana said. They then moved on to the next window. There was a rattlesnake which when it saw the Prado family started to shake its tail making a noise. “Rattle, rattle, rattle, hiss, hiss, hiss.” The snake showed its fangs and some poison dripped from them. The rattlesnake was very upset when people got its attention and appeared too near.
There was a spider to see which scared Lana and intrigued Matthias. The spider was a tarantula that was of fair size and hairy. “Does it bite?” Lana inquired about the spider. “It says it eats mainly insects, so we don’t have to worry about being hurt.” Jen comfortingly told. The last to see was a caiman. “The caiman is an ancestor of crocodiles, that’s why it looks like one.” Jen told. The caiman was half in and out a pool of water and wouldn’t move. It looked ready to bite with its mouth slightly ajar.
Lana was happy to leave the reptile and snake building. “That was fun, where next?” Lana asked while skipping and jumping and twirling in the air. “Well, I really want to look at the birds and there right there so let’s go there next.” Jen stated. Lana looked at her family upset. “It’s okay Lana, we will go see the sloth last but will spend extra time there, you’ll see.” Jen reassured. Lana looked down at the ground mad but got over it. So, then the Prado family walked a short distance to the bird section of the zoo.
Everyone was having fun seeing the exotic birds, even Matthias. None of them had seen a flamingo before. The flamingo was all pink, it pranced around with its long skinny legs dipping its beak into a pool a water for a drink. “I didn’t know so many of the living creatures here at the zoo were endangered.” Jen pointed out to the kids. “Are they all going to die?” Lana asked. “We don’t know, that is why we are trying to protect them. We are setting up laws against poaching and find places for them to live where no harm will come to them and their habitat.” Jen strongly explained. “Okay, I want to keep them safe also, I love them.” Lana agreeingly said, grabbing her mom’s hand.
The other birds seen were ones like roadrunner, cranes, and emus. They all really responded about the same, walking around and eating bird feed from the feeders. There was a pelican that flew around lots and so that bird provided the most excitement. The birds were kept in large cages where they couldn’t fly away. “Why do they need the cage?” Matthias asked. “I think the birds would fly away otherwise and get hurt.” Juan Carlos clarified. After a while, Jen seemed to be the only one happy to see the birds still. Both Lana and Matthias grew bored rather fast of the bird area.
“Are we done yet because I want to see the sloth?” Lana said trying to hurry things up. “Okay, why don’t we go see the sloth now.” Jen agreeingly said. “But wait, I forgot we paid to go on some of the rides with the tickets we bought.” Juan Carlos with surprise had remembered. Lana looked at her family shocked and upset. “But you said!” Lana started to point out, about to cry. “Well Lana, there are rides you will like. Trust me, you will get to see the sloth. Jen interrupted and soothed. “Okay, but I really love that sloth.” Lana said calming down, settling on later.
The Prado family then made their way to the attractions. Lana really liked the carousel. It had many zoo creatures to sit on and ride around in a circle. Matthias got bored of this ride after a minute, but the ride was only several minutes long. “Can we just go see the sloth, I’m bored?” Matthias asked. “There is a wall climb Matthias.” Juan Carlos enthusiastically boasted. “Let’s go there next.” He said, hoping to re-grab Matthias’ attention.
The family then walked over to the next ride. “Oh, wow!!” Matthias exclaimed. “I really want to climb this!” He spoke happily. “This is Kilimanjaro Climb.” The attraction worker stated. “It goes up 30 feet.” He said stunning Matthias. “Oh, I’ve never climbed anything so high before.” Matthias unsurely explained. “Let’s get you suited up.” The worker said, then putting Matthias in a harness and securing the bungee cords. Next thing anyone knew, Matthias had scaled the whole wall and made it to the top in just half a minute. “I’ve never seen someone climb this wall in that fast a time before.” The worker said with amazement while scratching his head. “Matthias is very athletic.” Jen bragged. Matthias then made it down the wall rather fast as well and the family proceeded to the next ride.
“I want to go on the train ride.” Lana said, she had been too afraid to climb the wall as it was too high. “Sure Lana, we can do that next.” Juan Carlos told his daughter. Matthias had been happy enough from the wall climb to be talked into going on the train. Lana really liked to train ride as it passed several zoo exhibits some she had already seen and some she hadn’t. It was a quick ride but fun enough and a thrill to see the animals zip past her. As she road she saw two zoo staff go running her opposite direction. They seemed upset and worried. Lana put her hand to her mouth in fear. Lana hoped everything was alright but then the ride took another turn and she forgot what she had seen.
“There is only one last ride to do, then we can go see the sloth.” Juan Carlos reminded. It was the Serengeti Cyclone ride. It would have you sit down, and the ride would spin real quick. “I don’t feel like going on that ride.” Jen pointed out. “It’s too fast for me.” Lana hesitantly revealed. “Okay, Matthias and I will go then, you two can wait here.” Juan Carlos accepted. Matthias really loved the ride, commenting on how fast it went. The ride went spinning in circles with music playing and flashing lights. You had to hold on tight or you felt like you would be thrown off the ride or pressed uncomfortingly against the side of the seat. The wind was intense on your face as you spun, making your cheeks puff out and skin feel pushed back.
Once the cyclone ride was done Matthias jump off and ran to his mother. Juan Carlos needed a minute as the ride made him a little sick. “So, can we go see the sloth now?” Lana tiredly pleaded. “Yes, now would be the perfect time to go.” Jen admitted. “Yay!!!” Lana screamed and started running ahead toward the sloth enclosure.
When the family finally reached the sloth exhibit though something was amiss. The cage door was open, and a man was inside cleaning. Lana stopped in her tracks and froze. She could see blood on the floor of the enclosure. Lana then looked at the sign of the cage. It read Linnaeus's two-toed sloth. Lana then turned around and ran back to her parents who were trying to catch up to her. “Something happened to the sloth!!” Lana shouted. “I missed it.” She angerly and hopelessly said. Lana started to cry some unsure what had happened and confused. “Why don’t we ask that man what’s going on.” Jen thinking positively advised. The family then walked over to the cage. “Excuse me, where is the sloth?” Juan Carlos worriedly asked. The janitor looked up and walked over. “I don’t know, they had to take it to the evaluation center here at the zoo for some reason.” The man despairingly stated. The sloth started to act funny and visitors had noticed it was bleeding.” He unemotionally explained. “Maybe something else got into the enclosure and attacked the sloth?” The janitor skeptically replied.
The bad news upset Lana. She had been on her best behavior all week and waited the whole time just to see that sloth and now something terrible had happened to it. Lana started to cry some more again and buried her face into her father’s shirt, too upset to lift it up and look at anyone. That’s when an animal ambassador came over to the cage with a clipboard. “Excuse me, do you know what happened to the male sloth that was kept in this cage?” Jen needingly asked. The female worker then adjusted her glasses and walked over to the Prado family.
“Well, it was a unique day with the sloth.” The woman said. “My name is Dr. Ramos, I work here at the zoo making sure all the animals and creatures are safe and happy.” She proudly informed with confidence and pride. That’s when Lana pacified. She noticed the lady was one of the zoo employees she had seen while riding the train, who was upset and running somewhere about something. Lana then walked over to take part in the conversation. She was full of questions. “Had the sloth not been eating the right food?” Lana suggested. “I was told the sloth wasn’t acting right. Sloths like to eat leaves, fruit, and sometimes will even eat a small lizard or small bird.” She pointed out with fervor. “No, this sloth was not eating at all actually, at least once we received it.” Dr. Ramos commented while checking at her clipboard.
“Did something attack the sloth?” Lana fearfully asked. “It could have been a caiman, or did it come to the zoo injured?” She told with fright. “No, there were no other creatures in the enclosure that we found.” Dr. Ramos said, finding Lana ever interesting. “We had earlier checked over the sloth and found no injury either.” She educated. “Then why was there blood?” Lana asked with her eyes watery and with a thirst of knowledge. “Well, that was the fascinating part, this sloth has given birth.” Dr. Ramos said, surprising everyone. “But we were told the sloth was male.” Matthias replied, remembering what he had heard. “Oh yeah, but sloths are very difficult to tell if they are male or female.” Lana said with astonishment in her voice and nostalgia. “Someone must have gotten this sloth confused with a male one.” Lana passionately explained. “Why yes, this little girl is correct. Dr. Ramos happily announced, now putting down her clipboard by her side. “It must have been the extra weight that led to someone labeling the sloth as male.” Lana intelligently pointed out. “How do you know so much about sloths, my dear?” Dr. Ramos intrigued, asked Lana, while bending down and resting her arms on her knees. “I studied with my mommy about the sloths so I would be prepared to meet him ... err ... I mean her.” Lana kindly told, correcting herself.
“What is your name little girl?” Dr. Ramos inquired. “My name is Lana.” she triumphantly stated. “I would like to invite you and your family to come see the sloth.” Dr. Ramos informed cheerfully. A big smile came over Lana’s face to this news. “Wow Lana, that’s a big invitation. You want to go see that sloth, right?” Jen asked her daughter. “Yes, I would.” Lana said. “Perfect, follow me to the evaluation center here at the zoo.” Dr. Ramos instructed.
The family then walked a short distance with Dr. Ramos to the center and through their doors. There were many rooms there and with many different animals of differing conditions. Some needing medical care and others being treated for physical ailments. First Dr. Ramos had Lana and her family wash their hands and put on a cap and gown to keep the mother and baby sloth safe from germs and disease. Lana and her family then walked into a room and in that room was the mother sloth. The sloth was a light brown color with its fur, with white all around its face and with a black nose and black eyes. It had long black claws and looked at Lana and her family when they entered the room and smiled. She was sitting up on a table but looked in pain. Lana ran over to her and immediately there was obviously a connection between the two.
“Can I pet the sloth? Lana eagerly questioned. “Sure, she will not harm you.” Dr. Ramos stated. “I know.” Lana confidently agreed. Lana then reached out and caressed the mother sloth’s head and neck and back. The sloth was tired and had watery eyes. “She has been through a lot.” Dr. Ramos pointed out. Lana then picked up some fruit from a table and hand fed the sloth. At first the sloth was shy, but it soon changed its tune and ate from Lana’s fingers the grapes she presented. “Oh my, she wasn’t wanting to eat before. Good job, Lana.” Dr, Ramos congratulated.
“Nom nom chomp naw nom.” Were the noises the sloth made while eating. “This mother sloth used lots of its energy to give birth and so is in need of a much-needed meal.” Dr. Ramos informatively explained. “I love this sloth. I’m happy to help.” Lana said while still feeding and nurturing the sloth. It went on like this for several minutes with Lana petting the sloth and feeding her grapes and other fruit. Lana enjoyed providing comfort and care and speaking soothingly to the sloth. Lana’s family were left happily bewildered by Lana’s kindness and humility.
“Wow Lana, I didn’t know you were so good with animals.” Juan Carlos embarrassingly told. “I know.” Matthias agreed. “Heeeehhh, heeeehh, heeheeehh!!” That’s when a strange noise came from the room next door. “What was that?” Jen asked astonished. “Lana, would you like to answer that question?” Dr, Ramos confidently asked. “I believe, it’s the baby sloth.” Lana had paused and spoke. “That’s right.” Dr. Ramos said. Would it be okay for us to see her?” Lana anxiously asked. “I don’t see why not.” Dr. Ramos cheerfully answered.
Lana and her family were then walked into the next room where to the family’s marvel, the baby sloth was being kept. It looked very much like its mother did but smaller and had a much lighter colored nose and coat of fur which was silky smooth and shiny. The sloth’s face was ever so cute, innocent, and full of love. “Is that the baby sloth? Juan Carlos asked. “How is it so feisty?” He asked as the sloth scooted about on the table smiling, curious about its visitors. “Baby sloths are born very aware and active and are able to move around and eat rate away.” Lana smartly pointed out. “Right again, Lana.” Dr. Ramos proudly said. “The problem we have had so far is the baby sloth doesn’t want to drink any milk.” She ominously told. “The mother is still too tired, so we thought the baby would like something to eat but has yet to consume anything.” She unfortunately explained the circumstance.
Lana then grabbed the baby bottle with milk off the table and walked over to the baby sloth. “Heeeehh, heehh, heeeeehhhehh.” The baby sloth screeched with glee. Lana then petted the baby sloth and presented the bottle. The baby sloth then latched onto Lana’s arm and with its hands and feet held the bottle along with Lana and started to drink. “Slurp, nomp, nomp, nomp, ptnomp, slurp.” Were the sounds of the baby sloth drinking from the bottle.
“Wow Lana, you’re a magic worker.” Jen stated. “I love this baby sloth. She is so cute.” Lana lovingly praised. Lana then fed the baby sloth with everyone watching for the next several minutes until the bottle was empty. After the baby sloth got tired and fell asleep in Lana’s arms while Lana was petting her.
“Well Lana, thank you for your help today.” Dr. Ramos respectfully told. “You clearly are a kind person and one that likes to help other living creatures. We would love for you to return to the Sacramento Zoo any time, free of charge.” Dr. Ramos informed with regard. “I would love to.” Lana responded with pride, honor, and respect. Lana and her family then started to leave but first Lana ran back and gave the baby sloth a hug while it slept. “Goodbye, baby sloth. I love you and will miss you.” Lana motheringly assured. She then visited the mother sloth one last time and gave her a hug too. “You have a great baby, mother sloth.” Lana told with joy. “I hope you two have lots of fun at the Sacramento Zoo. From what I’ve seen it is great here. I’ll be back soon to personally see you two again!” Lana told the mother sloth with care and love.
Lana and her family then said goodbye to Dr. Ramos and left the zoo. They had had one of the most remarkable days. Everyone had had fun while learning to appreciate all life. They headed for home with them all being very impressed with what Lana had done and by her abilities of hope and kindness, love and respect.
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