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WVI Wildlife Warriors

We've just finished the first week of our WVI Lockdown Challenge and have over 35 WVI Wildlife Warriors who have pledged to walk, run and cycle over 2500km (1,600 miles). That doesn’t include the rowing, wild swimming and fitness classes that others have pledged to do.

To put that into perspective, Dr Richard Harvey is currently in Gabon radio-collaring elusive forest elephants. He has walked 350km in three weeks, radio-collared ten elephants and has another seven to go. The large bull elephants they are targeting are generally more difficult to find as they roam larger areas and are unfortunately becoming rarer. Harvey is going to beat us all hands down AND the terrain isn’t helpful!

A bull African forest elephant coming round from anaesthesia in Gabon. Credit @the_wildvet

Two of our wildlife vets who are currently in the UK are also undertaking challenges. Jess Bodgener, who should be in Nepal investigating the health of conflict leopards, has pledged to photograph 100 species as she walks 100 miles around Tottenham Marshes in London. Do you know which common bird species can recognise itself in a mirror, or which aquatic bird has poorly water-proofed feathers? Find out in her short film letting you know how it is all going.

Karen Archer, who nearly got stuck in Ghana while exploring a new partnership with West African Primate Conservation Action last year, is our triathlete. She is running, cycling and swimming in the sea. This is her swimming spot on a calm February afternoon.

Karen swimming in the sea in early February

Amongst our other intrepid Wildlife Warriors, we have Helena who rowed across the Atlantic in a tiger striped boat. We thought she loved tigers but it turns out that ’survival orange’ is the easiest colour to spot in a raging sea! In contrast, this month she is rowing 160km in the relative comfort of her conservatory in Surrey.

Our oldest Warrior, at a sprightly 81, is Ann Rooney. She will be walking at least 25km on her treadmill at home in Newry, County Down in Northern Ireland. Ann is joined by her daughter, son and granddaughter.

Furthest afield we have Taylor who is writing up his PhD inSouth Carolina. He is going to mirror Jess’s walk and local species count. We are looking forward to learning about and comparing species local to London’s freshwater marshes and South Carolina’s salt marshes and pine forests.

We also have several under 10-year-olds running, walking and cycling too. One of them Benji, aged 7, is a great wildlife artist and a keen supporter of WVI. At the end of February, Benji is going to walk 20km with his father over two of the highest points on the South Downs.

Not to be outdone by the younger children, Heptonstal Guides and Rangers in West Yorkshire are combining the challenge with various lockdown compliant fundraising, self-care and adventure badges.

The WVI Team are fully engaged too, with Executive Director, Olivia, running three times a week, up to 100km, on the moors in West Yorkshire. Fundraising Manager, Angela, is walking 100km with her collie, Skylo (see photo above), and Communications Manager, Linda, is joining her from the other end of the country with her dog, Timur. Timur, a Kyrgyz sighthound, himself is pretty endangered; there are only a few hundred Taigans left.

Linda and Timur embracing the February mud

For most of us, the motivation is to beat both the lockdown and February blues by doing some exercise and getting out and about if we can. Further inspiration comes from knowing the £10 sign-up fee, and any additional sponsorship, will make a real difference to saving species by putting veterinary science at the heart of conservation.

Enthusiasm for getting out and moving with purpose continues to grow as the challenges we face with SARS-CoV-2 (Covid 19) keep us locked down for what feels like forever. It’s not too late to sign up. Choose your challenge, donate £10 here, join our friendly WVI Lockdown Warriors Facebook Group if that is your thing, and off you go.