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A big-hearted zoo keeper at Paignton Zoo has gone ape for Ape-ril in aid of orang utan conservation.

Head Keeper of Mammals Craig Gilchrist has had his beard dyed orange by his barbers – The Groom Room, in Abbey Road, Torquay - as part of Ape-ril, a campaign run by the Sumatran Orangutan Society.

Craig, who is co-chair of a national zoo primate group, was keen to take part: “I want to raise awareness and money. Sumatran orang utans share 96.4% of our DNA, but they are Critically Endangered and on the edge of extinction.”

The Ape-ril campaign encourages men around the world to show their solidarity with their great ape cousins by doing something most male apes can do – grow beards. As Craig already had an impressive beard, he decided to dye it orang utan orange.

“If you can’t grow a beard or don’t want to, then you can get involved by dying your hair or wearing a fake beard. Release your inner ape and get hairy for our hairy cousins!”

Craig has signed up along with fellow keeper Mathyou Bearridge from Toronto Zoo in Canada. They have called themselves Team Molek, in memory of Molek, a male Sumatran orang utan both keepers worked with at Toronto Zoo. Matt is a senior keeper on the Indo-Malay section with the Sumatran orang utans.

Craig, whose impressive beard made him look more than a little like a male orang even before it was dyed orange, aimed to raise £250 during April, but has already smashed that figure.

To support Craig go to https://ape-ril2014.everydayhero.com/uk/craig. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to http://www.orangutans-sos.org/events/ape-ril

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