Mad Max Tours takes a look at some countryside treasures just beyond the city…this time we ventured to the Cotswolds to enjoy a sloth encounter at Amazing Animals at Heythrop Zoological Gardens near Chipping Norton

There are many reasons why we are unbelievably lucky to be based in the UNESCO City of Bath. As well as being blessed with an incredible Roman Heritage, stunning Georgian architecture and a vibrant arts and culture scene, we are geographically in a location which makes so many places easily accessible. One such area is The Cotswolds. In this series of blogs we are picking out some of our favourite sights, attractions and experiences nearby to share, and telling you why, whether you are a resident or a visitor, it is so worth exploring beyond the city itself.

Our featured attraction this time is Amazing Animals at Heythrop Zoological Gardens near Chipping Norton. A little further from Bath than some of the places we are featuring, but extraordinary, and so worth a visit. We came across it as one of our Mad Max children – another Madeleine - has a passion for sloths (of all things!!) so I made tentative enquiries and discovered that it was possible to book a sloth encounter. A little to-ing and fro-ing and we had a date in the diary.

On arrival, it was clear we were not in a commercial tourist attraction. No car park, no glossy entrance, nobody! Just a pair of zebras peering at us curiously through the fence. They seemed friendly enough. We called the number on the confirmation email and after a few minutes a lady called Barbara appeared.

Barbara was lovely and clearly passionate about the animals. She showed us through to where the sloth was waiting for us.

 

Barbara, our guide with Talita and Madeline

 

Talita, the sloth who starred in 'The Durrells'

 

Now, unsurprisingly, sloths are not in any great hurry to do anything – not even come out of their box to meet us! Eventually however 7-year-old ‘Talita’, (the two-toed sloth who starred in the TV series ‘The Durrells’) was unable to resist the tempting fruit pieces we were to feed her with (or was it our alluring personalities and smiley faces??!!) and ever so slowly…she emerged onto the branch so we could see her.

A close encouter of the Sloth kind....

 

Madeleine was beside herself. Sloths are incredibly gentle creatures; their scientific name in Greek - Bradypus - means ‘slow feet’. They live in the wild in Central and South America, occupying in tall trees, spending much of their time hanging because their long claws make walking difficult.

Talita was bred in captivity. Sloths who have been hand reared love human contact, and Talita certainly appeared to be extremely happy being stroked, tummy rubbed and fussed over by us. Who wouldn’t ;-). We were warned to wear long sleeves (those claws are loooooooong!!) and not to wear perfume as she doesn’t like strong fragrance. From start to finish, our encounter was, I have to say, utterly beguiling. We were both totally smitten and had Talita been pocket-sized, there is no doubt Madeleine would have made an attempt to slothnap her.

We took the long path out – passing the most wonderful and exotic creatures you can imagine, from tiny black-capped squirrel monkeys (with adorable yellow legs – see picture below) to flamingoes, giraffe, camels, meerkats, storks… the list was endless and our squeals of delight and child-like excitement probably disturbed the neighbours. Almost all of them had appeared in a production we were familiar with, whether it was “Our Zoo – The Story of Chester Zoo” (various), an E-Harmony ad (giant tortoise), HMRC (ducks), Clash of the Titans (camels) or Hot Fuzz (swan). They also hire out insects, antelope, birds of prey, penguins and hyenas. Their sheep block the road in the recent confused.com ad too! The notable exception was the adorable pigmy hippopotamus who has yet to make her screen debut. Well you know where to come…

P-p-p-p-pick up a penguin!

Picture by kind permission of Amazing Animals

 

Much of the filming is done on site in their own green-screen studio to avoid having to transport the animals, and welfare is clearly extremely high on the agenda. Fancy a visit to Amazing Animals at Heythrop yourself? Details can be found here. Or why not pop along to one of Amazing Animals open days coming up soon? We’ll be there! Details here.

Amazing Animals/Heythrop Zoological Gardens is licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animal Act 1976. Amazing Animals/Heythrop Zoological Gardens is the only UK private company of its kind to be Balai Approved. This means that they have to meet exceptional standards of inspection and submit monthly health reports on all zoo-type animals in their care. The directive is so demanding that those who are in possession of it are permitted to transport non-domestic species to zoos and other animal collections in the EU with little to no quarantine regulations. For further information, please visit https://www.amazinganimals.co.uk/licensing-qualifications/