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Diary of a Marathon Ape Man

One of the world's leading great ape conservation experts Ian Redmond will be running in the Flora London Marathon on Sunday April 18th 2004 in aid of the Ape Alliance and Born Free Ape Projects - from Gentil and other chimp orphans at Lwiro Sanctuary in Congo, to the UN Great Apes Survival Project.

Born Free will be monitoring his progress as he juggles his vital conservation work with preparation for the great race and Caribzones is proud to be associated with this worthy cause.

Wednesday 11th February 2004

Songbirds seem to be somewhat confused by city streetlights, and start their dawn chorus way before the faintest glimmer of daylight. This, and a series of mishaps I will reveal, led to me accidentally running more than six miles this morning - one and a half times round Regent's Park and up Primrose Hill - after an evening with rather more ethyl alcohol than is wise for one in training!

I wasn't planning to stay in London last night, but was speaking with three other conservationists at The Bushmeat Debate in the Zoological Society of London meeting rooms. It was well attended by an interested audience, and ably chaired by Elliot Morley MP, the Environment Minister; in a vote at the end, a sizeable majority supported the concept of a sustainable bushmeat trade (as opposed to an outright ban). Most recognise that however desirable on animal welfare or conservation grounds, an outright ban is unrealistic in many African countries - bushmeat (the meat of wild animals, from caterpillars to large mammals) is a staple for millions of people, and selling it (and other forest products) is the only way many forest-dwelling people can enter the cash economy, educate their kids and improve their standard of living.

But any bushmeat consumption, whether for subsistence or via trade, should in my view be LSD and H:

Legal - no protected species such as apes or elephants, nor any hunting in protected areas;
Sustainable - numbers hunted must be less than or equal to the reproductive capacity of the species concerned;
Disease-free - health checks must be a part of any bushmeat trade, what with SARS, ebola and innumerable other viruses, bacteria and parasites looking for a host;
Humane - the method of killing, trapping and transporting animals must minimise suffering.

I realise that many would advocate a switch to vegetarianism, but as that is not likely to happen in the near future, a more pragmatic approach might just make things better for both the people and the wildlife populations, whose future is inextricable entwined.

But I digress - after a very pleasant dinner with Elliot Morley, the speakers and organisers, I realised that I'd left my coat (with house and office keys in the pocket) in a cloakroom that was now locked for the night. There was nothing for it but to stay over, so after an apologetic call home, I headed for the pub to meet my brother Chris and his partners Boris and Dorian to discuss the forthcoming UK tour of young Rwandan dancers and drummers. We had first brought the Ballet Inganzo to the UK in July 2002 (well, half a dozen of them and a translator - we couldn't afford to bring the whole troupe of 28) and, inspired by their energy and music, Dorian, Chris and Boris had set up Inshuti-UK to build links between Rwandan and British schools and musicians. Watch this space for more details in due course.

As the Albert was closing, instead of pedalling to Paddington, I rang Stanley Johnson's doorbell in nearby Primrose Hill. Despite the late hour, Stanley - who is organising the forthcoming inter-ministerial GRASP meeting and advising us on EU grants procedures for ape projects - invited me in for a whiskey and a chance to catch up on our respective activities; once he had heard the tale of the locked-up keys, he kindly offered a bed for the night.

Next thing I k, I woke up thirsty (I wonder why??) and heard the aforementioned dawn chorus, so I checked the bedside clock: 06.55. Fine, I thought, time for my third training run. Of course, my bouncy trainers were in Bristol along with my elderly tracksuit, but I tucked my trousers into my socks, put on my usual shoes and slipped out into the cold morning air. Starting across Primrose Hill, I kept to the grass wherever possible (hoping the early dog-walkers had not been there before me) and ran around Regent's Park in an anti-clockwise direction. Back to Stanley's but still no lights on so, not having a key, I ran (and for the last bit walked) up to the top of Primrose Hill where a little know of smokers and dog-owners were watching the dawn. The view is fantastic to the south, with the London Eye and the telecom tower lit up in the distance. Then, once more down to the mosque and across the centre of Regent's Park, except someone had fenced off a huge area so I had to swing south by the Open Air Theatre and back up past the ZSL meeting rooms, but they were still locked. I asked a passer by the time and he said, "Twenty past seven." - which surprised me until it slowly dawned on me that Stanley's guest-room clock must still be set to British Summer Time, and I'd been running since 05.55…. So I jogged back and forth, and did stretches on Stanley's doorstep until the postman arrived and the dog barking made me feel I could ring the bell; I later worked out on the A-Z that my morning run was well over six miles!

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Born Free is increasingly receiving donations from supporters who have run in other national races including the Great North Run, the Great South Run and the Flora Light Marathon for Women - all raising money for wildlife projects.

If you are taking part in any of these events or others no matter how big or small contact if you would like to raise funds for Born Free.


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