Indiana family hopes Cincinnati Zoo names newborn sloth after late son

Oliver Nicholson was just 16 months old when he died in 2021. The zoo announced their sloth was pregnant the day of the toddler’s visitation.
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT
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DEARBORN COUNTY, In. (WXIX) - A Lawrenceburg family wants the Cincinnati Zoo to name its expected newborn sloth after the family’s late toddler.

Alyssa and Alex Nicholson lost Oliver in February 2021. Months later, they cope by watching videos of him.

“There are times where it brings us joy,” Alex said. “There are times where it definitely makes us sad. It’s the human experience. You go through all of it.”

Oliver and his twin, Atticus, came into the world seven weeks premature in October 2019. Oliver was born with extreme disabilities like VACTRL anomalies and a tracheoesophageal fistula. He would spend most of his life at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“They would poke and prod in surgeries and just anything you can think of, and he would just come out smiling,” Alex recalled.

Oliver had a big surgery in January to connect his esophagus and his stomach. While in recovery his parents got him a toy sloth to keep him company, not realizing the two-toed animal resembled Oliver, one of whose hands only had two fingers.

“I don’t think he let him go,” Alex said. “I think that was five weeks [...] before he passed.”

Oliver died on Feb. 17. The family went in with Oliver for a routine procedure, and some unexpected complications ensued.

A week later, during Oliver’s visitation, the Cincinnati Zoo announced their sloth, Lightning, was pregnant.

Lightning the sloth

Lightning the sloth is in the final weeks of her long 10-month gestation period. The 24-hour birth watch has begun and her habitat has been baby-proofed. This post is brought to you by Quaker Chewy Dipps Sloth-Tastic granola bars

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Monday, July 19, 2021

“It was tough to ignore that one,” Alex said.

Now, pushing to make Oliver’s memory last while bringing attention to his conditions, the family is hoping Lightning’s newborn takes their son’s name.

The Cincinnati Zoo says they are aware of the family’s petition but won’t begin the naming process until the sloth is born.

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