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Two members of staff from Bristol Zoo Gardens are preparing to jet across the world to help orphaned gorillas.
Head of maintenance Joe Allotey and senior electrician Stuart Castle will be flying more than 3,000 miles to a sanctuary in Africa which cares for the gorillas.
Their visit comes as Bristol Zoological Society is trying to raise £10,000 through an appeal to help pay for new enclosures for the gorillas at the sanctuary in Mefou National Park in Cameroon. So far more than £3,000 has been donated.
Joe and Stuart will be there for two weeks working on the enclosures which will each be several times the size of a football pitch. They are needed so several family groups and younger male gorillas can live together.
Joe, who visited the African sanctuary nine years ago, said: “We will be helping build fences, walls and enclosures whilst working alongside the construction team on site.”
He and Stuart will be taking hammers, chisels and hand-saws to help with the work as well as electrical tools and special devices to check circuits and wire fences to keep the gorillas safe.
They will be working alongside staff and volunteers from the sanctuary in the heart of the forest in temperatures of up to 32C (89F) and in high humidity.
The work, which is vital to help the 22 gorillas cared for by the sanctuary, has to stop at 6.30pm each day when the sun sets and generators providing power for the site are turned off.
Joe said: “We’ll know more about what is needed when we get there but we are both really looking forward to going.”
He said the visit was part of the continuing relationship between Bristol Zoological Society and the sanctuary which was very much part of the local community.
Joe said: “We want to maintain and develop those links. Last time we came back and made some boards for the local school with push buttons on them to make the sounds of different animals.”
He said everyone at Bristol Zoo was aware of the importance of the 12-day visit and the vital work carried out by the sanctuary.
Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, and without the efforts of sanctuaries like the one in Cameroon they could be lost forever.
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