Peterborough great grandad (85) supports David Attenborough zoos appeal with large city walk

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An 85-year-old great grandad from Peterborough walked through Peterborough on one of the hottest days of the year to help save zoos which are at risk of closure due to the coronavirus.

Michael Russell battled the heat alongside to walk through several of the city’s townships in support of London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo.

Beginning in Cathedral Square, he walked 21 miles alongside son Graham and two nurses from the Neurology Department at Peterborough City Hospital - Heather Reid and Tina Homewood - which saw them bucket collecting during the day.

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On top of a JustGiving page the walkers have raised more than £500 so far, half their target.

Michael Russell walking to save zoosMichael Russell walking to save zoos
Michael Russell walking to save zoos

Michael was determined to fundraise for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which owns both zoos, after seeing an appeal made by Sir David Attenborough.

The legendary documentary maker said: “Without your help we could see the closure of the world’s oldest scientific zoo. A place where generations of people have forged a love of wildlife through their joyful encounters with animals.”

Describing how he found the walk, Michael, who lives in Bardney, Orton Goldhay, said: “It was enjoyable - we got a fair bit of support from the public. We were wearing special vests with a ‘Save the Zoos’ logo and we received some donations going round.

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“My grandparents used to take me to zoos and I loved the animals. The zoos are now doing the re-breeding and charities are doing rescues for animals which have been abused and abandoned.

“David Attenborough put out an appeal and we’re walking to save zoos in general. They’ve lost an awful lot of income and need to get funding back as quick as possible.”

All zoos were forced to temporarily close in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although they could re-open from June, numbers were restricted due to social distancing.

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The ZSL is a conservation charity which is nearly 200 years old.

London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo in the world, opening its first animal exhibit in 1849, while Whipsnade Zoo is the largest zoo in the UK with 3,600 animals.

Michael said: “So many members of the public, both young and old, have and will enjoy visits to these institutions that give so much pleasure.

“These zoos desperately need support, especially with the numerous breeding programmes that they encourage to try and save many of the endangered species.”

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He added: “I would like to thank our two nurses for their heroic efforts and to all those kind folk who have donated.”

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