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Dr Jane Goodall: reflecting on chimps in the image of man

This month I’m proud to announce that a very special interview of mine has been featured in National Geographic Kids magazine: my recent chat with globally renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall about her groundbreaking career studying chimpanzees.

An extract of our conversation; including Jane’s recount of both her favourite and funniest moments with the chimps can be heard here:

Later this month, the brand new feature-length National Geographic documentaryJane‘ will have its UK release on the 24th November, and on the 27th – 29th November the Primate Society of Great Britain, of which Dr Goodall is a patron, holds its 50th anniversary meetings where Jane will be guest speaker — making the timing of this article particularly exciting!

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It was a real honour to sit down with this conservation hero of mine in the incredible setting of Windsor Castle at the annual summit of Roots & Shoots.

(Part 1 of my interview, about Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots programme can be heard here).

Flint and Dr Jane Photo Credit NatGeo, Hugo van Lawick

Flint and Dr Jane. Photo Credit: NatGeo, Hugo van Lawick

Hearing about Jane’s determination to fulfil her dream to work with animals in Africa was endlessly fascinating and inspiring.

“When I was 10 years old I decided I wanted to go to Africa and live with wild animals and write books about them. That’s going back about 70 years ago now, and back then it didn’t happen in England that girls had those opportunities,” she tells me, as we both sip tea from china cups in this most regal and British of settings.

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Dr Jane Goodall and I outside Windsor Castle

“So everybody laughed at me and said; ‘Jane, dream about something you can achieve’, but my mother said: ‘If you really want something, you’re going to have to work hard, take advantage of every opportunity and never give up’.”

The rest, as we know, is history. We talk through her favourite moments with her favourite chimp (David Greybeard) and some of the incredibly discoveries she observed in her camp in Gombe, Tanzania during her study for National Geographic — and the less than warm reaction she received from the scientific community at the time.

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To read the full interview, see this month’s National Geographic Kids magazine.

Learn more about Dr Jane Goodall

Want to know more about Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Awards?

Want to know more about Great Apes?

 

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Reblog: Undercover investigation reveals chimps being sold as pets for £10,000

At the beginning of this month I came across this poignant and in-depth exploration of an undercover operation that revealed the true extent of chimp trafficking. An absolutely devastating industry concerning a species listed as Appendix 1 by CITES, which mass media is only just gaining insight to. Written by and originally featured on a blog called According to Jess

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According to Jess

BBC News investigation has uncovered a huge section of the wildlife trafficking business  that sells baby chimpanzees as pets for £10,000, after their families are shot dead in front of them.

The well-known West African hub for wildlife trafficking, which is known as the “blue room” was uncovered by the BBC’s 12 month investigation, and reveals how the tiny chimps are taken from the wild to be sold as pets. Chimpanzees are in high demand as pets or zoo performers across many countries. Baby chimpanzees are sold to wealthy homeowners for a minimum of around £10,000, although it can be a lot more.

The investigation revealed that poachers would shoot as many of the adults in a family as they could to prevent the young chimpanzees from resisting capture. This also meant that the poachers could sell the older chimps as bushmeat. This method means that for every one baby that…

View original post 836 more words

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My top 5 ways to fend off ‘Blue Monday’…

Apparently today is the most depressing day of the year. Cold January Mondays, can be a miserable time as it is, without the thought that statistics are against us, as well as the rainy British weather.

I figured it would be a good time to escape the January blues and indulge in the beauty of nature, and some of the incredible conservation heroes working hard to secure a future for some of our planet’s rarest wildlife.

Here are a few of my top suggestions for getting through the day.

1. Try out Gorilla Safari VR

A free app for your phone or mobile device, Gorilla Safari VR was developed by vEcotourism.org and released by the Born Free Foundation over Christmas.

If you’ve not tried it yet, the app — available on Android and iOS — begins at Born Free Foundation’s headquarters in Surrey and takes users on an immersive adventure (either using a VR headset or as a 360-degree video experience on your device), to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Meet Eastern Lowland Gorilla patriarch, Chimanuka (star of BBC’s Gorilla Family & Me), and explore his native habitat with Ian Redmond OBE as your guide.

Gorilla Safari VR

I wrote an entire post on this app last month, so feel free to take a look back over that for a full introduction, or visit vEcotours website at: http://www.vecotourism.org/news/announcing-gorilla-safari-vr/

2. Watch A Lion’s Tale

The realm of Natural History film making is in a fantastic position at present. We finished 2016 on the high of the amazing Planet Earth II, with its ground-breaking footage and camera techniques; we’ve had a host of great wildlife shows presented by Gordon Buchanan, and currently you can catch the fascinating BBC series ‘Spy in the Wild‘ narrated by David Tenant. Spy in the Wild uses some impressive robotic animals fitted with hidden ‘spy cameras’ to film a very intimate and unusual look into the lives of a range of animals, from alligators and elephants to African wild dogs. 

But there are many other amazing Natural History films available that you won’t find from switching on your television. Independent filmmakers are posting some incredible results online, including ‘A Lion’s Tale‘ by Tania Esteban.

This film looks at the legacy of actress turned conservationist Virginia McKenna, who famously played Joy Adamson in the 1966 film ‘Born Free‘. Fifty years on, A Lion’s Tale attempts to look at what that legacy means among today’s wildlife conflicts, returning to Kenya (where Elsa the lioness was once released to roam free) to visit the Born Free team and the Kenya wildlife service rangers to explore their work on the frontline of conflict and education.

A Lion’s Tale saw its public release online this last weekend, catch it here:

For more info about the film: treproductions.co.uk/

Official webpage: taniaesteban.wixsite.com/alionstale

3. Explore ‘Speaking of Nature’ case studies 

Another impressive independent film project to have received its launch onto the World Wide Web is that of film maker Craig Redmond. His project ‘Speaking of Nature‘ was released on the 5th of January and has gradually been doing the rounds on social media.

I discovered it this weekend and spent an entire morning working my way through the six stories that comprise this project.

Each story focusses on a different conservationist; Badger Cull – Dominic Dyer, Badger Trust;  Primate Pet Trade – Dr Ros Clubb, RSPCA; Hunting and Trapping of Migrating Birds – Fiona Burrows; Committee Against Bird Slaughter; Wildlife Crime – Mark Jones, Born Free Foundation; Industrial Fishing – Wietse van der Werf, The Black Fish; Gardeners of the Forest – Ian Redmond, Ape Alliance

There is a written introduction to each conservationist, exploring their role and the plight of each animal they work with (or rather, for the protection of) and video footage of two-part interviews with each chosen person.

Grab a cup of tea, nestle in and prepare to be inspired.

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For the full stories, visit: https://craigredmond.exposure.co/speaking-of-nature

4. Discover GreenWorldTV

Something to get excited about for 2017 — a brand new television channel dedicated entirely to wildlife and environmental news!
Although GreenWorldTV hasn’t quite ‘landed’ yet, it’s coming. And I for one, can’t wait.
GreenWorldTV will launch in 2017 as the UK’s very first conservation, animal rescue and investigative wildlife online TV Channel and intends to bring a selection of educational and truthful wildlife TV shows, films and shorts to the world. Stay tuned – the channel will launch at http://www.greenworldtv.com
Check out this trailer for an idea of things to come, and give yourself something to look forward to:

 

You can sign up to Green World TV YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfsRp0AAJQII4EIfZeVoeRw

5. Have flick through National Geographic Kids Magazine

Ok, so I’m cheating a bit here, because – as some of you will know – I recently started working for National Geographic KiDs magazine. Their February issue (on sale now), is the first issue I contributed to.
It’s a great little uplifting read – lots of fun for children, but also, I’ve found, it’s a nice easy read on an early morning commute.
Simple language, great photography; some fun and unusual facts about big cats and a really interesting feature on polar bears (do you know how big a polar bear’s paw is?).
Plus, it’s bright and colourful and easily digestible. Definitely the kind of thing that cheers me up in January!

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Visit www.ngkids.co.uk or pick up a copy in your local newsagents.

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Introducing Gorilla Safari VR! A Christmas present from Born Free

Born Free Foundation have a special gift to give this Christmas. Working in conjunction with vEcotourism.org they have just released a brand new app — Gorilla Safari VR — and it’s completely free!

I know quite a few people will be waking up to a VR headset underneath the tree on Christmas morning, but for those who aren’t ready to take the leap into fully immersing themselves in the virtual world just yet; you can still enjoy the app and its opportunity to explore the habitat of the Eastern Lowland (or Grauer’s Gorillas) using a smart phone or tablet. The app is available on IOS and Android.

Gorilla Safari VRIan Redmond OBE, is the guide on the Gorilla Safari VR, and will take you to the Kahuzi-Biegan National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the heart of Africa.

“I invite you to join me on this unique VR trip to learn more about the world’s largest primate – the Eastern Lowland, or Grauer’s Gorilla.” Ian writes on the Born Free Foundation website.With us will be John Kahekwa, winner of the 2016 Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, presented by HRH The Duke of Cambridge at the prestigious Tusk Awards this November.”

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A sneak peak of the VR tour

“Christmas is a time for family. And while most people take this to mean reconnecting with seldom seen siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts, think for a moment about our wider zoological family. Don’t you wish sometimes you could get away from it all to visit your more distant relatives, the great apes?”

“If so, Born Free has a special Christmas gift for you this year. In conjunction with the team that brought you virtual travel via http://www.vEcotourism.org, and just in the nick of time for Christmas.”

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Meet Ian Redmond, John Kahekwa and Born Free Foundation President Will Travers in the app

Having supported the fantastic work of vEcotours for a while now, I was so excited to hear that they have developed an app for my favourite charity, which even includes a view of the Born Free Foundation Headquarters in Sussex.

I gave the app a little go this morning and I love it! Here’s how I got on…

Perhaps the coolest thing about this new app (other than the fact you can download it for free…), is that it arrives just in time for today’s BBC Two’s special Christmas Eve programming, which will see a back-to-back screening of Gordon Buchanan‘s two-part series The Gorilla Family & Me from 3:45 this afternoon.

Ian and John Kahekwa both worked with the BBC last year to make the two-part series, and there’s an opportunity in the Gorilla Safari VR app to look behind the scenes of the making of the documentary.

Gordon Buchanan Gorilla Family & Me

Going behind the scenes with Gordon Buchanan while filming The Gorilla Family & Me

Join Gordon and the BBC film crew with the warden, rangers and trackers on the trail of siverback Chimanuka’s family. You could also spread some more Christmas cheer and continue being a part of Chimanuka and Mugaruka’s wild story by adopting the gorillas through Born Free Foundation.

You can adopt the pair (I have!) and receive a personalised adoption certificate, photo, cuddly toy gorilla, the pair’s full story and regular updates about the gorillas; courtesy of Adopt! magazine. To find out how, click here.

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To learn more about Gorilla Safari VR visit: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/news/news-article/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=2394 

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Revisiting Sir David Attenborough’s Great Ape playmate

In the wake of Sir David Attenborough’s 90th birthday celebrations, the BBC has curated a fantastic collection of programmes from Sir David’s incredible, extensive catalogue of work, available on BBC iPlayer. The collection includes the brand new programme; Attenborough at 90, which sees a number of colleagues, friends and admirers of Sir David come together to celebrate his milestone year.

Of course, the birthday broadcast included one of the most celebrated (and remembered) moment of David’s on-screen history, which is…

NB: Since the making of these films, the practice of human interaction with wild gorillas is no longer permitted, due to further understanding of the human diseases we may pass on to them. 

Born Free Foundation supporter and ambassador of vEcotourism.org, Ian Redmond OBE, was on hand for the programme, filmed in front of a live audience, to reminisce the infamous gorilla introduction between Sir David and the gorillas.

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As Dr Dian Fossey’s research assistant, it was Ian who took David and the BBC crew to meet the gorillas. The incredible moment has been the subject of a new BBC Earth article, which goes on to explain what happen to the gorillas after that magical moment; written by Ian.

 “There is the unforgettable moment when Pablo, a playful youngster in Group 5, sits in David’s lap and sprawls back wriggling, making David grimace slightly despite his evident delight – I suspect that was because gorillas do have rather bony bottoms!” — courtesy BBC Earth.

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Ian Redmond observing the gorillas. Photo taken by DR Dian Fossey, courtesy of Ian Redmond.

Happily, Poppy, the then two-year-old infant who played alongside Sir David Attenborough, is now an elderly matriarch in the Susa Mountain Gorilla Group, which can be visited, virtually, at close range on the flanks of Mount Karisimbi, courtesy of vEcotourism.org. For full details and more information, click here or the picture below:

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Primate poaching, problems and protection

I can’t get Racing Extinction out of my head. I think that’s the point of a documentary like that, of course, and it must be working, as I keep coming back to it in my mind.

Racing Extinction

Having also recently watched the powerful film How to Change the World, in which Greenpeace’s Bob Hunter constructs the idea of ‘mind bombs’ (the 1960s equivalent of a viral image or video) to instil a message and influence a state/change of mind; I understood the tactic that Director Louis Psihoyos has employed in Racing Extinction.Racing extinction empire state building

But whilst National Geographic photographs of snow leopards and whales illuminating the Empire State Building or lions and clown fish clambering over the Vatican have captured imaginations all over the globe, the mind bomb that’s gone off in my head is: “what was the chimpanzee feeling when he came back and gave Jane Goodall a hug?’

The poignant moment manages to capture the human-like affection that primates are capable of expressing and makes me acutely aware of how we are not that different to our sentient Great Ape counterparts.

Dr Jane Goodall was selected as number 1 on BBC Wildlife Magazine‘s conservation power list this summer, for her lifetime’s work with chimpanzees – including drawing attention to the tragic impact of the wildlife trade.

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Through her organisation; the Jane Goodall Institute, BBC Wildlife explains that she spends 300 days a year on speaking tours that take her across the globe. But who is this slight, grey-haired woman with such youthful eyes and smile that they almost betray her years of wisdom?

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Everyone seems to have seen the David Attenborough clip  where he shares a special bonding moment with silverback gorillas in 1979, the iconic footage gets shared and re-shared for its absolute magic, but somehow despite this — the plight of Great Apes goes largely overlooked nowadays, in comparison to big cats and critters of the Arctic.

In the 1960 and ’70s, it was different. Under the provision of Dr Louis Leakey; an paleoanthropologist and archaeologist concerned with understanding human evolutionary development, National Geographic funded three separate primate research projects over the two decades, fronted by three extraordinary women: the Trimates

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The Trimates: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas were commissioned to study primates to establish their position in human evolution. Goodall researched chimpanzees, Fossey: gorillas and Galdikas: orangutans.

Goodall began conducting her initial study in Tanzania in 1960, and made significant discoveries with regards to their behavior, social structures, and was the first to discover that chimps used tools (such as sticks, to fish termites out from inside branches and tree trucks), which was a characteristic believed to be exclusive to humans before her work, and one of the things that separated us from our ancestors.

The second Trimate, Dian Fossey set up a research camp in Rwanda in 1967 to begin her study of gorillas. Her story (and its controversies) is documented in the 1988 film, Gorillas in the Mist.

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I watched Gorillas in the Mist for the first time this week, to understand more about Fossey’s work and the circumstances surrounding her murder in 1988.

The thing that struck me most about the film was the relentless fight she faced against poachers. Although hunting had been illegal since the 1920s in the national park she resided in in Rwanda, the law was rarely enforced by park conservators, who were often paid a low salary and bribed by poachers.

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The scene in which the first silverback that Dian had contact with, Digit (called so because of his having a pose-able thumb – or fifth digit – a feature of apes), is killed by poachers is harrowing. Brilliantly acted by Sigourney Weaver, one can only imagine the pain that Dian felt when her beloved Digit was discovered with his head and hands removed by poachers to be made into gorilla hand ashtrays and medicine in the Asian wildlife trade.

The real-life photograph (shown above) was taken by Fossey’s student, Ian Redmond. Now Ian Redmond OBE; a supporter of Born Free Foundation, a contributor to Born Free’s Wildlife magazine, and someone whom I recently listened to at The Service for All Animals, speaking with Virginia McKenna in memory of elephant Pole Pole.

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It always astounds me when these things somehow come together and link in. Perhaps it’s telling of the fact that those involved in the animal rights movements are prolific, dedicating their lives to a cause. Or maybe it’s also a sign that the number of people at the forefront of anti-poaching, anti-wildlife trafficking campaigns are few in number?

I hope it’s the former.

Or perhaps I just seek it. In the summer this year, I visited Lizard’s Point in Cornwall as part of a music mini tour with my partner, and what should I stumble across but a sculpture commissioned in support of the Dian Fossey Organisation and its work with mountain gorillas, raising funds for the cause.

I photographed it at the time, not really knowing much about the organisation or its work, but feeling certain that I would in time. And here we are.

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So what of the third Trimate, Birute Galdikas?

Her National Geographic cover story was published in 1975 detailing her work with orangutans in Borneo.  Despite being told by her professors that studying the primates would be impossible, due to their elusive and wary natures, she has continued her work over four decades and today is well-known for her rehabilitation efforts through Orangutan Foundation International.

As with the other two primate pioneers, however, Galdikas’ work is also not without its criticism.

Despite this, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering these amazing ladies’ stories and the education that they bought to the world about our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

It seems national treasure, Sir David Attenborough,  is one of the only Great Ape champions to have escaped such criticism and controversy, but it’s worth noting that the story neither begins nor ends with him alone.

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Want to know more about the threats faced by primates today, and what’s being done to help them? Check out: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/primates/

Learn more about Dr Jane Goodall

Want to know what happened when I interviewed Dr Jane Goodall?

Want to know more about Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Awards?

 

 

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Go Go Going Once, Go Go Going Twice, Go Go Gorilla Gone!

It’s been a crazy 48 hours, and I’ve only just found the time to sit down and write about the amazing Go Go Gorilla auction that took place at the Forum, Norwich on Thursday night (October 3rd).

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I’ve mentioned a couple times on this blog that mid-way through the summer I actually moved away from Norfolk to take on my first graduate job; a temporary contract with Channel 4 Learning in Hammersmith, London. So working all week, I genuinely had to make a mad dash after work to get over to Norwich in time for the auction. But I’d followed the Go Go Gorilla events and supported the charities throughout all of this year – I wasn’t going to not be there at the end (and yes, I had a very long commute to work Friday morning).

DSC_0346It was definitely worth it though! I loved that the Forum had transformed into a glamorous auction room with a red carpet, VIP tables and great ambiance from the lighting.

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Ticket and bidding card (the gorilla)

Upon arrival, after passing a gorilla-lined red carpet , I was handed my bidding card (more of a memento than to actually bid with) and headed up to the gallery, where I was overlooking the events of the evening (knowing I couldn’t afford the thousands of pounds each gorilla would go for, it seemed unnecessary to be seated downstairs).

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The evening kicked off with speeches from Break charity’s patron Jake Humphrey. I must admit, my interest in this whole initiative came from my support and following of the Born Free Foundation; which I have supported since I was a child, and even traveled to South Africa to volunteer at their big cat sanctuaries there. But Born Free is only a partner of this project; the main driving force has been Break charity, which is an East Anglia-based charity that supports young people in care (and there after), children and young people with disabilities, families in need of support and Children at risk.

DSC_0360In credit to this whole project – I had never heard of Break before this summer. Now, I must have tweeted them about 50 times and through various Go Go Gorilla news articles and leaflets, I’m very aware of their work, and will continue to support this fantastic charity in the future. Here are the opening speeches from the night from Break patron Jake Humphrey:

Followed by the man responsible for this amazing initiative, who has spent the last TWO YEARS putting it together; Go Go Gorilla trail organiser Martin Green: (I was amazed to hear over a million people had taken part in the trail!

The auction quickly got under way  with the first commissioned gorilla, Nelson (the gorilla responsible for selling the idea to the sponsors), painted by local artist Mik Richardson and representing Break Charity; selling for £7,000. A great start to night.

I loved how much the crowd got behind the sales; cheering as each major target was reached.

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Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest money-raisers of the night was Mr. Carrow, the Norwich City Football Club inspired gorilla, which spent the summer at the football ground. He was the first gorilla to break the £15,000 mark (and second to reach £10,000 after Horatio) and the hammer was lowered at a staggering £17,000!

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The gorilla voted ‘public’s favourite’ via local newspaper poles (through Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, which have backed the charity project from the beginning); Alan gorilla was signed by Steve Coogan himself at the Anglia Square world premiere of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa earlier in the summer. I was surprised that given Alan Partridge’s publicity, and the publicity given to Norwich due to his debut blockbuster film (albeit a lightly mocking view) his gorilla doppelganger only fetched £5,000 at auction  – which in comparison with some of the most popular gorillas of the night, wasn’t as much as I was expecting.

dgffhThere was no doubt in my mind – that given all the scandal around him (as documented on this blog) – Freddie Radio Go Go Gorilla was going to be the highest reaching sale of the night. Also painted by local artist Mik Richardson (who worked on 5 of the gorillas in total – and some of the mini gorillas that were decorated by schools) this gorilla – which looked great pre and post make over! – reached an amazing £20,000!!

1378674_224070414424177_27251567_nWatch the auction action for the highest selling gorilla of the night here: (I love the theme music that Freddie is introduced with)

I’m so pleased with the way that the local community of Norwich, the local (and national news) and Born Free Foundation’s patron, Queen guitarist Brian May, supported the Go Go Gorilla and Break Foundation against the controversy that this chimpy chappy caused – and although he did have to have a make over – I think he looked great both ways!

goAll in all, the auction sales reached a staggering £272,300 by the end of the night! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was certainly higher!

imageAt the end of the sales, a (slightly emotional) Martin Green was presented with a mini gorilla of his own, a design that Jake Humphrey said he had supported, but it had never made it to the final creations. I can’t stress enough how brilliant this whole fundraising initiative has been, and how proud it’s made me of Norwich and as a Born Free supporter (and now a Break supporter too)!

In-keeping with this blog’s theme; yesterday’s (4th October) Eastern Daily Press newspaper gave an insight into the work of Born Free Foundation and why it was chosen as a partner to this project:

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At the end of the proceedings, I went and had a chat with some of the main people involved with Go Go Gorillas initiative, and this is what they had to say:

Jake Humphrey – Break Charity Patron:

DSC_0357“It has been great for bringing people together. To have something as abstract as gorillas across the streets of Norwich and to know how much support has been behind it – it’s shown even more how much of an incredible city this is.”

Martin Green – Go Go Gorilla Organiser, Break Charity:

DSC_0361“It’s great, it’s been really good and thank you to everyone who has gotten behind it. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”

Mik Richardson – Go Go Gorilla Artist (Freddie “Radio Go Go”, Nelson, Juno, Gladstone, Gonzo – sales total at auction: £40,900):

DSC_0362” [On Freddie Radio Go Go] I’m the biggest Queen fan! The press kept asking me what I thought about it all [Freddie being re-painted] and I said; ‘It’s a shame, because I don’t think it will sell for as much now’ – but I’m not so sure anymore! When it all happened, I didn’t think I’d get it re-painted in time: I was so busy. I was coming back and working on it until 1am. I mean I’m usually a mural artist so this whole thing was challenging, but the reaction has been good and it’s been really fun working with the school’s painting their mini gorillas.”

A full list of prices that the gorilla’s reached can be seen here (taken from today’s Eastern Daily Press):

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What a truly fabulous ending to the Go Go Gorilla summer! I must admit, I felt a little sad as I walked out past the last few gorillas being loaded up for delivery to their owners! Though, I expect I’ll still get to see some of them in some of the local businesses of Norwich. Hopefully.

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