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A Paignton Zoo gorilla has joined the Royal Navy on a voyage to the Antarctic.

The adventurous ape, named PEG – Polar Explorer Gorilla - has sailed on board HMS Protector, the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship. And fittingly, this plastic Paignton Zoo gorilla will be painted with an image of a Living Coasts' macaroni penguin, alongside a number of other penguin species.

The curious arrangement came about after the Executive Director of Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts, Simon Tonge, was invited to lunch on board ship with other dignitaries. Simon: “During conversation the Great Gorillas Project came up and I think it was Captain Hatcher who suggested, in jest, that they could take a gorilla to the Antarctic and photograph it on an iceberg.

“As it happens, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria - EAZA – has just launched a major new climate change campaign called Pole to Pole. And I realised that we had an unpainted gorilla that was perfect for the job. After that it all fell into place very easily!”

EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, represents and links 345 institutions and organisations in 41 countries. Leading zoos and aquariums in Europe and North America have united to launch a campaign to influence the energy consumption of their nearly 300 million visitors. The new campaign, Pole to Pole, highlights the effectiveness of collective action in reducing energy use and protecting biodiversity in the Polar regions and beyond.

The 5,000 tonne HMS Protector provides a UK sovereign presence in the Antarctic and conducts inspections, hydrographic charting and scientific research. The man in charge, Captain Rhett Hatcher, was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, and attended grammar school in Somerset before joining Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in 1985.

Artist Jackie Kidd lives in Woodbury Salterton, in East Devon. She was invited to paint PEG because the Zoo was so pleased with her work on interpretation panels for the new coati enclosure. The task took her a week and was completed in her kitchen studio. She used ordinary acrylic paint; the model - which is 77cm tall and 76cm long - was then varnished at the Zoo before setting sail.

Jackie said: “This has been a fabulous opportunity for me to create a piece of artwork to showcase Living Coasts and highlight the EAZA Pole to Pole campaign. I made her a member of the exploration team. Polar Explorer Gorilla became one of the crew of HMS Protector and will encounter many adventures on her journey along with her shipmates.

“The artwork also features the many penguins that inhabit the Antarctic region, some of which are struggling with changes to climate that are affecting the environment they rely on. I hope that this inspirational and unusual piece of work will aid the EAZA campaign to protect biodiversity and generate collective action in Zoo visitors.”

The design includes a macaroni penguin, a species that can be seen at Living Coasts. The deployment, including a round trip of almost 20,000 miles, lasts for 20 months.

Quotes Loads to see and do, for a full day out. Quotes