Labour of love hand-rearing orphan sloth at Drusillas

Head Keeper Mark Kenward with Flash, the baby sloth
Head Keeper Mark Kenward with Flash, the baby sloth

It’s International Sloth Day on Thursday (October 20) and keepers at Drusillas Park, Alfriston, have every reason to celebrate after hand-rearing Flash the two-toed sloth for more than six months.

Flash arrived at the zoo on March 26, but sadly her mother died shortly after she was born.

Since then, Head Keeper Mark Kenward and Zoo Keeper Gemma Romanis have been primarily responsible for Flash’s care and have been working around the clock to look after the orphaned infant, including night feeds every three hours.

They have both created activity pens in their homes and are currently building a sloth gymnasium at the zoo, designed to encourage muscle development and increase activity, whilst providing additional stimulation.

Mark said, “It’s been tough but we couldn’t be happier with Flash’s progress. This is the first sloth baby born at the zoo so it has been a bit of a learning curve but she now weighs nearly five times her original weight and is a picture of health.

“Sloths are nocturnal creatures, so we have had to adapt to become nocturnal keepers. We stay up until 3am every night interacting with her and trying to replicate the relationship she would have with her mother as far as we can.

“Her diet is made up of a combination of vegetables, leaf eater pellets, goat’s milk and water, with sweetcorn, chicory, fine beans and courgette currently her favourites.

“Gemma and I have both created activity pens within our homes, made from rigid vines and lianas. The next step is to create a sloth gymnasium for her at the zoo, where she can climb, explore and start building her strength.

“It is tiring but it is never tiresome and I consider it a real privilege to do what we do. Ultimately, the goal is to teach her all she needs to know to be a fully functioning sloth and survive in sloth society. Only then, will we know that our job is done.”

International Sloth Day was created by the AIUNAU Foundation to increase conservation and awareness about these unique and fascinating creatures.

Drusillas Park is open daily from 10:00am. For more information, please telephone (01323) 874100 or visit the website at

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