[T]wo intrepid staff from the Lake District Wildlife Park near Keswick will be donning their Red Panda costumes this Bank Holiday weekend (Monday 27 August) to tackle the heights of Skiddaw and make people more aware of the plight of these extraordinary creatures.
Alongside some of the UK’s largest zoos, the Lake District Wildlife Park’s two resident Red Pandas are part of the European Endangered Species breeding programme, so Lauren Pickhall and Lucy Dunn wanted to do their bit to raise awareness of what could soon be a critically endangered species in the wild.
Red Panda numbers worldwide have declined by a staggering 50% in less than 20 years, with the notoriously shy animals losing their mountain homes in areas like the Eastern Himalayas and South Western China to deforestation and poaching.
West Cumbrian Lauren started volunteering at the Park as a teenager more than a decade ago, before working her way up to Carnivore Keeper. She says, “I’m definitely not a fell walker, so this is a genuine challenge for me. I’ve always had a passion for animals and I want people to know more about these gentle creatures, their habitats and the conservation work needed to protect them. Of course, we want to raise money to help the Red Panda Network protect their natural habitats, but it’s equally important for people to see us heading up the mountain in our Red Panda costumes and spark some conversation and debate.”
Park Manager, Richard Robinson adds, “Being a Keeper is not your average job; it attracts people with a dedication to making a difference. I’m excited to see Lauren and Lucy go the extra mile – or the extra 931metres up Skiddaw – to promote a cause which means something special to them.”
Meanwhile, back at the Lake District Wildlife Park, visitors of all ages can get involved by becoming ‘Red Panda Rangers’ (20 August –16 September). As well as getting a sneak peek of resident Red Pandas, Mei Li (beautiful one) and Charu (graceful), there are a range of activities including daily quizzes, talks and children’s mask-making.
The events all lead up to International Red Panda Day on Saturday 15 September and any visitor donations raised will go to the Red Panda Network, which is one of the Lake District Wildlife Park’s designated charities.
To sponsor Lauren and Lucy’s fundraising efforts for the Red Panda, visit their JustGiving page.