CINCINNATI — An Ohio zoo is naming its sloth habitat after an Indiana toddler who found comfort in sloths during his short life, most of which he spent in and out of the hospital.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden made the announcement on what would have been Oliver Nicholson's second birthday.
Oliver passed away earlier this year. He suffered from a rare syndrome that kept him in and out of the hospital for his 18-month-long life. During that time, sloths gave him comfort.
“Oliver was diagnosed with VACTERL association and was in and out of Cincinnati Children’s during his short life. We gave him a stuffed sloth during one of his hospital stays which he adored and slept with every night," said Alex Nicholson, Oliver’s father.
The stuffed sloth was appropriately named "Mr.Sloth."
“He would just snuggle it [Mr. Sloth] and sleep with it every night,” said Alyssa Nicholson, Oliver’s mother told 13News. “And people just started getting him sloth gifts."
After learning that the Cincinnati Zoo’s sloth was pregnant, the Nicholson family started a petition to name the baby Oliver. More than 80,000 people signed the petition.
Sadly, the Zoo never got to discuss names for the baby sloth, announcing Sunday the baby sloth was delivered stillborn.
Alex Nicholson said he and his wife had been in touch with the zoo and discussed other ways they could honor Oliver's life.
Ultimately, the zoo decided to memorialize Oliver by renaming its sloth habitat “The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat”.
“This tribute will be lasting and means so much. It gives us a huge bright spot on an especially difficult day and some positive news to share with the 80,000 people who signed our petition," Nicholson said.
The zoo said the mother of the baby sloth is currently in the Zoo’s Animal Ambassador Center but will likely be reunited with Moe, her 22-year-old companion, in The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat at some point in the future.