Article by Harvey Day & Leonie Lock for The Independent
The stars of Downton Abbey and some of Britain’s most famous actors, including Jude Law and Peter Capaldi, have drawn doodles of rhinoceroses to raise money to help save the animal from extinction.
The pictures will be auctioned off to provide funds for anti-poacher dog patrols at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, which is home to four of the world’s nine surviving northern white rhino.
The reserve also protects black rhinoceroses and has regularly been targeted by armed gangs wanting to kill the animals for their horns, which are then sold on the black market for use in traditional medicines in Asia.
“I hope this auction will draw people’s attention to the plight of these magnificent animals and help generate funds to protect wildlife,” said Donna Purvis, who helped organise the initiative. “The use of dogs is increasingly vital to protect and sustain these species so they exist in high enough numbers to recover.”
Ms Purvis’ partner, Darryll Pleasants, has helped train Ol Pejeta’s 13-strong dog team, which are trained to detect weapons and ivory and to ambush poachers by wrestling them to the ground. They run a dog training academy, White Paw Professional Dog Training, in Norwich.
Among those from the Downton cast who have donated doodles are Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Brendan Coyle, Penelope Wilton and Phyllis Logan. Conservationist Chris Packham also provided a drawing.
The auction will feature artwork from artists including Gary Hodges and David Shepherd as well as sculptor Hamish Mackie. Other lots include a signed copy of a Breaking Bad script, safari holidays, a flight with Virgin Balloons and a chance to name one of the rhinos that lives in the conservancy.
The money raised will be used to build new kennels and to buy new Dutch-Malinois Shepard puppies for training at Ol Pejeta.
The Independent’s Christmas appeal raised more than £500,000 to combat the poaching crisis in East Africa. The money financed new teams of wildlife rangers and to run community education projects, as well as helping to establish a new 65,000-acre wildlife conservancy in central Kenya.
Those wishing to join the Ol Pejeta Charity Auction can do by going to www.charityauctionorganizer.com.