Julia Heckathorn and her husband Jason welcomed two new baby girls into their home on the same day — and the two have become the best friends.
One baby is their own child, Alia, who is now 5 months old. And the other baby is 9-month-old Daisy, who happens to be a sloth.
Heckathorne and her husband had been searching for a baby sloth to adopt for a long time. “We had been looking for a US-born, well raised and healthy baby sloth suitable for children’s education for four years,” she said. So when the opportunity to adopt just such a baby sloth happened to coincide with news of her pregnancy, Heckathorne continued with her sloth-adoption plans. “We don’t believe in importing [exotic animals] from other countries,” Heckathorne explained, but such a sloth is hard to find.
But baby sloth Daisy happened to fit that bill exactly.
Heckathorne says that baby Alia was two weeks late in arriving, and that there was only one day that the couple was able to have the exotic baby sloth travel because of warming weather. Because of that, Alia arrived home from the hospital on the same day that Daisy arrived home, as well. Heckathorne believes it was fate.
“So I believe that the events happened as God planned them. I guess he knew we could handle the work of two babies at the same time, and that it would be great for them to grow up together.”
And it seems as though fate was good, since the baby sloth and their own baby have quickly become best friends.
“When Alia and Daisy sit next to each other, Daisy sniffs Alia while Alia nuzzles into Daisy’s soft fur. They are so sweet together. They even wear the same colored flower headpieces in their hair,” says Heckathorne. “They enjoy just being around each other, and watching each other, and trying to touch each other, and snuggling up together.”
But having two babies — even if one is an exotic animal baby– in the house is a lot of work.
“They’re both, very much, babies,” Heckathorn, 29, told Today in an interview “So, they react to noises and movement and stuff like that [similarly]. They’re still learning about each other.”
The couple doesn’t just own a baby sloth. They also have a kangaroo, an anteater, and four sugar glider possums — all of which are characters in the series of children’s book that Heckathorne authors, called Search For The Hidden Clover. The series of books educates about animals and the need to care for the environment, and the Heckathornes’ animals travel with them to schools, so that children can meet their favorite “characters.”
As the unlikely best friends take the internet by storm, though, Heckathorne stressed that she and her husband are both licensed to care for exotic animals, and that it’s not for everyone. “I don’t want people to go out and try to buy a sloth or a kangaroo or anything like that. It’s a lot of work,” she said. “We’re licensed to do it, and it’s all for a cause.”
The Heckathornes cause happens to be sloth-related — a conservation effort in Panama to save the endangered pygmy sloths on Escudo Island. Proceeds from her books and related appearances help fund the effort.
But even though owning exotic animals — and parenting — may not be for everyone, Julia Hackathorne feels fulfilled. “There are challenges to being an author with many animals, as well as two new babies that just want to be held and snuggled. But the challenges are also joys that allow me to teach my own child to love and care for the natural world. The sloth and baby have been growing up together, taking walks together, and working alongside mommy as I write my books and travel to schools,” she says.