The Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio is naming its sloth habitat after a 1-year-old who was born with rare birth defects and died earlier this year.
Alyssa and Alex Nicholson of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, had created a petition on change.org in August — asking the Cincinnati Zoo to name their soon-to-be newborn sloth after their late 1-year-old son, Oliver.
Oliver was born with one hand and two fingers due to the condition VACTERL. This condition stands for vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheoesophageal fistula, renal anomalies and limb abnormalities. The condition is a set of birth defects that usually occur together in three or more body parts, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Oliver and his twin brother, Atticus, were born prematurely in October 2019.
Oliver had surgery in January to connect his esophagus and his stomach. During this time, his mom and dad got him a toy sloth amid his recovery and discovered the stuffed animal with two toes resembled their baby boy.
“He adored that sloth stuffed animal. He would sleep with him every night. We had a giant ‘hang in there’ sloth balloon in his hospital room, all of the nurses loved it,” Alex told FOX News, adding, “He was always so calm, and so patient; and so happy to be here.”
Oliver died after undergoing a routine procedure to check his esophagus which led to bleeding around his heart. He was sadly unable to recover.
During the little boy’s funeral, many informed the family that the female sloth at the Cincinnati Zoo was pregnant, and suggested that her baby could possibly be named in Oliver’s memory.
The family began the petition to name the baby Oliver and it garnered over 80,000 signatures. Unfortunately, the zoo was not able to discuss names for the newborn sloth, which was delivered stillborn this past Sunday.
But instead, the zoo decided to honor Oliver by naming its entire sloth habitat after him.
“We had been in contact with the Zoo and had discussed other ways that we could honor Oliver,” Alex Nicholson said. “This tribute will be lasting and means so much. It gives us a huge bright spot on an especially difficult day.”
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