ON any other day, the image of a man carrying a furry gorilla head in an Iceland shopping bag on the London Underground would be a cause for concern. If you had taken a walk through the city on the chilly Saturday morning in question however, it would have become quite clear that gorillas had overrun the streets of London.
There had been no mass breakout from the London Zoo, nor had the post-apocalyptic future predicted in Planet of the Apes come to fruition. The 9th annual Great Gorilla Run, a run which has become an iconic London event, saw hundreds of participants in full gorilla costume run a seven kilometre track through the city, increasing awareness and raising money for gorilla conservation throughout Africa.
Over 350 runners took part in the 2012 Great Gorilla Run on 22 September, while over 5000 participants have been involved with the unusual fundraising event since its inception in 2004. The GGR has raised over £1.5 million for the Gorilla Organisation, with the majority of those funds directed towards the organisation’s award-winning conservation and community-building programs in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Amongst the 350 participants in this year’s Great Gorilla Run was Australian actor Adam Garcia, judge of Sky1’s Got To Dance and breakout star of 2000 film Coyote Ugly. Garcia’s love for primates inspired him to become involved with the Gorilla Organisation and contribute to the fight to prevent the extinction of Africa’s endangered gorilla population.
“What fascinates me most about gorillas is their similarity to us… They have such strong familial bonds, they are the gentle giants,” Garcia said, explaining his participation in the 2012 Great Gorilla Run.
“Imagining a world without gorillas is just a crying shame. Any extinction is tragic.”
The Gorilla Organisation operates alongside regional communities throughout Africa in a collaborative effort to prevent the extinction of gorillas and increase awareness of conservation practices. The charity has been active in environmental activism for over twenty years, and has won the BBC International Award for Outstanding Work in Conservation of a Species.
There are fewer than 800 mountain gorillas left in the world today, with numbers continuing to dwindle as a result of violent conflict in Africa and the destruction of their natural habitats. One of the Gorilla Organisation’s primary goals has been the initiation of educational projects designed to improve sustainable farming practices and reduce the reliance of local communities on gorilla habitats for their own survival.
As the runners, dressed in gorilla costumes, gathered in a square just off Mincing Lane, it became clear that the conservation message had resonated far from the jungles of Africa. Gorillas appeared from every corner, each costume uniquely decorated: despite the cold morning, many gorillas were clad in hula skirts, while a Baywatch-themed gorilla displayed more chest hair than David Hasselhoff during the early 1990s. Gorillas dressed as Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses were almost as popular as the organisation’s patron, British comedian Bill Oddie, who appeared carrying a giant banana shortly prior to the commencement of the run.
The Great Gorilla Run has become one of the most celebrated charity events on the London calendar, and has garnered attention from across the globe. In 2011 New South Wales resident Andrew Bullen won the prize for the gorilla that had travelled the furthest to participate in the event, with organisers encouraging the growth of the event on a yearly basis.
To learn more about gorillas and how you can help them avoid extinction (as well as registering for the 2013 Great Gorilla Run) visit the event’s website at GreatGorillaRun.org for more information.