When Amelia Jones first started working as a zookeeper at Drusillas Park in Sussex, England, she admits she was a bit intimidated by the two sloths in her care.
Sloths are typically very docile creatures, but when threatened they can use their sharp claws and teeth to injure an enemy. Amelia was trying her best to keep her distance, but she quickly discovered that Gordon the sloth had become quite smitten with her.
Their relationship started about two years ago. While the zoo’s hand-reared sloth, Flash, is aloof with humans, Gordon seemed to treat Amelia with a gentleness her fellow zookeepers hadn’t seen before.
“Gordon took a very gentle approach with me, like he knew I was nervous, and would slowly come to where I was, peer at me sweetly, and patiently watch me carrying out my duties,” Amelia recalled.
In the mornings, it’s her job to carry the sloths from their bed to their on-show enclosure. The zookeeper noticed that Flash always went to the enclosure on her own, whereas Gordon always waited until Amelia arrived before budging from his bed.
Amelia even noticed that Gordon was imitating her by picking up a bucket and sponge as she cleaned his enclosure. He didn’t do this around any of the other keepers — just her.
“I thought this behaviour was normal, but when I mentioned it to the other keepers, they actually didn’t believe me!” she laughed. “They all said that he kept himself to himself and didn’t have any interest in them. It was only when some of them walked past whilst it was happening that it stopped them in their tracks as Gordon really was crawling around on the floor with me — as he did every morning.”
From that point on, Gordon and Amelia were best friends. She started carrying him around in the morning to show off some of his neighbors in the other enclosures, and Gordon absolutely loved it. Sloths view the world upside down, so each morning Amelia carries him like a child as he tilts his head back and says “hello” to the other animals. She says he actually leans his body to indicate which direction he’d like her to take him!
“The day I realised I had accidentally created a routine with him, was one morning when I was in a rush and only had time to walk him quickly to his enclosure,” said Amelia. “When I put him down, he started pawing at me and pulling my t-shirt and acting really grumpy. And he stayed in a grumpy mood with me the rest of the day. That’s when it clicked that he’d expected his normal tour and was very unhappy it didn’t happen.”
Amelia says it’s an honor to be able to form such a unique bond with a wild animal like Gordon, and that she adores her time with him each day. It’s a good thing, too, because we don’t think Gordon will ever let her quit!
Watch Amelia and Gordon go through their morning routine in the video below, and don’t forget to share.
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