Two intrepid staff from the Lake District Wildlife Park near Keswick have donned special Red Panda suits to take on Honister Slate Mine’s epic Via Ferrata Xtreme and make people more aware of the dangers these extraordinary animals are facing.
There are thought to be just 2,500 Red Pandas left in the wild worldwide, following a decline of 50% in less than two decades. To coincide with International Red Panda Day over the weekend (Saturday 21 September), Lauren Pickthall and Lucy Dunn wanted to do something special to raise money – and awareness – for what could soon be a critically endangered species.
The notoriously shy Red Pandas live in mountainous areas like the Eastern Himalayas and South Western China, so the Wildlife Park’s dynamic duo thought tackling a series of rungs, ladders and bridges on the steep rock face at Honister would be a fitting challenge. As part of the Via Ferrata, they also faced their fears by ‘skywalking’ across the daunting Infinity Bridge, which is more than 2,000 feet above the valley floor.
Lauren and Lucy have been inspired by the Lake District Wildlife Park’s two resident Red Pandas, Mei Li (beautiful one) and Charu (graceful). Both are part of the European Endangered Species breeding programme and the money raised will go directly to the Red Panda Network, which employs Forest Guardians to conserve the creatures in their natural habitat.
Carnivore Keeper Lauren says, “This was much more than a bit of fun. It was genuinely a scary challenge for both of us and it was important not just to raise money for a cause we are passionate about, but also for people to see us wearing our Red Panda costumes and getting them talking about these beautiful, gentle creatures and the very real risks they face in the wild, mainly because of poaching and deforestation.”
Jan Wilkinson, Co-Owner at Honister Slate Mine, says, ‘When Lauren and Lucy came to us with this idea, we thought it was brilliant. We’re pleased to be working with one of our neighbouring Lake District attractions to help raise awareness of the threats to the Red Panda population.’
There is still time to sponsor Lauren and Lucy’s fundraising efforts for the Red Panda, by visiting their JustGiving page.