When Valentino the sloth arrives for an appearance, you can’t see him — but you can hear him.
If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you probably know the sound: a high-pitched “eee!” that endears instead of annoys.
Valentino is an 11-month-old sloth who lives at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh’s North Side and serves as an educational ambassador, meeting groups of people to teach them about rainforest animals and conservation.
These encounters also give people the chance to meet a sloth, one of the Internet’s favorite cute animals, IRL. One of these meetings, between Valentino and a young sloth fan named Violet, was recently featured on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” (The appearance was filmed this summer.)
This made The Incline wonder — how do you train a sloth to be camera ready? Valentino and Cathy Schlott, manager of animal training for the National Aviary, took some time earlier this month to show us:
The key, Schlott said, is clear criteria and communication. “It’s all about clear communication with treats, your body language, your posture,” she said.
The training started right after Valentino arrived earlier this year when he was just a few months old, Schlott said. They slowly judged his comfort level. “We don’t want their lives to be full of stress,” she said. “We don’t ask them to do anything they don’t want to do.”
Valentino turns 1 on Oct. 31, and the Aviary is throwing him a birthday party Sunday and Monday. Find out more here.