More than one million pangolins – the world’s only scaly mammals – have been illegally traded in the last 15 years, while the poaching of forest elephants in some central African countries has led to a population decline of more than 60% in ten years.
To help target issues such as the ever-growing threat of illegal wildlife trade, guests at ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) annual fundraising gala raised more than £375,000.
Safari in the City, the black-tie event hosted at ZSL London Zoo, was attended by the charity’s supporters including wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham, food writer, broadcaster and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and ZSL’s chairman of the fundraising board, Rupert Hambro CBE, and featured a live auction compered by author Lord Archer.
Demonstrating ZSL’s current work to combat Mongolia’s illegal Wildlife Trade to amazed guests, Marley, a UK Border Force detection dog, demonstrated his nose for crime as he searched through suitcases to find customs-seized pangolin scales.
Guests also joined the Zoo’s troop of critically endangered western lowland gorillas as they enjoyed a late-night snack scattered around their island home.
After-hours tours saw guests introduced to Professor Lew – an Endangered juvenile Chinese giant salamander – in the Zoo’s newest exhibit. Although now residing at ZSL London Zoo, Professor Lew, and three others were seized by Border Force officers foiling an attempt to illegally smuggle the amphibians into the country.
ZSL’s Fundraising Director James Wren said:
“As one of the biggest threats to endangered species around the world the illegal wildlife trade is said to be worth an alarming £17 billion globally a year.
“Here at ZSL, we’re working to put an end to illegal wildlife trade. Full stop.
“Last night’s Safari in the City fundraising gala raised more than £375,000 for ZSL, supporting our work and our commitment to not only stop but reverse the impacts of illegal wildlife trade.
“Lord Archer led a fantastic auction on our behalf, with our guests bidding on an array of wonderful lots; from conservation trips to Kenya and Nepal to pygmy-hippo ‘self-portraits’ created from their dung.
“Our generous supporters have continued to pledge, and so we expect this total to increase – which is a fantastic indicator of the passion and recognition of the importance of our work. We urge others to lend their support by donating via our website zsl.org”
Inside a stunning safari-themed marquee, host Chris Packham regaled guests with tales of his own experiences of seeing pangolins in the wild as they enjoyed a sensational three-course vegan feast created by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with his River Cottage Executive Head Chef Gelf Alderson. The plant-based menu reflected the seasons with heritage beetroot, fennel, rhubarb and Norfolk asparagus featuring alongside foraged hazelnuts, smoked seaweed, elderflower and spring flowers from the natural larder.
To find out more about Safari in the City, and ZSL’s international conservation work, please visit www.zsl.org