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Denver Zoo’s New Tree-Top Sloth Habitat and Artificial Trees

The Denver Zoo debuted their new sloth habitat in May 2021. The habitat centers around a 22’ tall artificial tree connected to the remaining exhibit space via overhead branches and vines.  The central tree is surrounded by visitor pathways that allow patrons to view the sloths directly overhead.  Elliot and Charlotte, Denver Zoo’s two-toed resident sloths, have multiple tree limbs, vines, and resting spaces within the main tree.  The exhibit sits squarely beneath a bay of skylight windows providing ample light for the sloths and zoo patrons below.

The Denver Zoo team contacted COST to fabricate the 12” diameter central artificial tree, two smaller trees, and faux vines for the exhibit. Due to COVID-19, the project team worked virtually to move from the zoo’s design through scale modeling, bark and trunk transition samples, shop drawings, structural engineering, fabrication, and into construction.  The tree features were composed of structural steel systems, clad with FRP and sculpting epoxies to deliver the realistic finishes, but more importantly, finishes that allow for easy sloth climbing. The 1” to 1-1/2” diameter vines were fabricated with an internal rope for support and then a sculpting epoxy was applied. Once the trees were installed on their structural steel bases, the vines were anchored and wrapped to best allow the sloths to navigate the trees and limbs efficiently.

While Elliott and Charlotte steal the spotlight, an important conservation topic regarding palm oil harvesting is also part of the educational message. According to the Denver Zoo website, “Palm Done Right® is helping communities harvest in harmony with nature, so local farmers can support their families—and sloths can keep their treetop homes”.

*Source, Denver Zoo, Sloths Branch Out – Denver Zoo

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