Cincinnati Zoo renames sloth habitat after 1-year-old Indiana boy

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 10:51 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Cincinnati Zoo will memorialize a 1-year-old Indiana boy who died in February by renaming its sloth habitat in his honor.

Oliver Nicholson was born with extreme disabilities like VACTRL anomalies and a tracheoesophageal fistula. He spent most of his life in and out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

His family says that doctors conducted a surgical procedure in January where they connected Oliver’s esophagus to his stomach.

While he was in recovery, he was given a sloth stuffed animal.

“He loved that little sloth,” said Alex Nicholson, Oliver’s dad. “That was his buddy for the last five weeks of his life. The sloth was with him every day.”

About a month later, Oliver went back to the hospital to check his esophagus for a routine procedure. The family says that while under anesthesia, Oliver had complications that led to bleeding around his heart, leading to his death.

While at the funeral, the Nicholson’s learned that the zoo had a sloth named Lightning who was pregnant. So, they started a petition for Lightning’s baby to be named after Oliver.

The petition received more than 80,000 signatures from people across the country.

Unfortunately, the zoo never got to discuss names for the baby sloth, announcing on Sunday that Lightning delivered a stillborn pup.

“We had been in contact with the Zoo and had discussed other ways that we could honor Oliver,” Alex said. “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.”

A plaque will be placed at the zoo marking “The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat”.

Zoo officials say Lightning will likely be reunited with Moe, her 22-year-old companion, in The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat at some point in the future.

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