Zoo keeper Mike Wilson is planning to spend an entire week of his life dressed as a leopard – including a headband with animal ears, a dickie bow and face paint,
The 36-year-old, who works at Peak Wildlife Park, near Leek, has bought several of the dress-up outfits so that he can wear them at work, at home and anywhere else he goes.
He’s trying to raise money to help save the South African animal sanctuary that launch his career.
Mike, from Trentham, said: “Due to the country’s borders being closed because of COVID-19 restrictions African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary is on the verge of closure.
“This sanctuary is where I discovered my love for animal care and decided I wanted to pursue a career in animal keeping. So I consider it my duty to do what I can to help them get through this.”
Mike and his wife Nicola spent several months volunteering at the sanctuary shortly after they got married in 2011 and have returned five times over the last decade.
“It’s a fantastic sanctuary and I have a lot of friends there. The majority of their income and workforce come from international volunteers, but the borders could well be closed until next year. They’ve managed to keep going for several months with a minimal workforce but they don’t know how safe people will feel even when international travel is possible again.
“Former volunteers like me have been trying to help. Enough has been raised online to give them a lifeline for a few months but I owe a lot to this place and I want to generate a bit more if I can.”
Mike, who has worked at Peak Wildlife Park for just over three years, says he wasn’t sure initially how well his fund-raiser would go down as his own place of employment has been appealing for help during the lockdown. But he says his colleagues have been “incredibly supportive”.
Mike works in all parts of the wildlife park and visitors will be able to spot him in his outfit right through until Sunday. He’s planning to wear different leopard outfits at work and at home because his job “can be a bit smelly”.
He added: “My wife was a bit shocked when I first told her what I was planning to do, but once I explained it to her she was very supportive.”
Mike has been nominated for an Our Heroes Award in the Charity Champion of the Year category.
If you would like to nominate a group or an individual for an Our Heroes Award send the details to firstname.lastname@example.org with Our Heroes in the subject box.