A GORILLA-costumed fundraiser is pedalling some 1,000 miles for charity – with his hands.
Tom Harrison – better known as Gorilla Man – completed the London Marathon last year on his hands and knees, and is now journeying from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a hand bike.
The 42-year-old, whose family hails from Warwick, has completed around a quarter of the route – in aid of The Gorilla Organisation – and stopped off in Coventry yesterday.
He doubled up this morning as Lady Gorilla, the gorilla community’s answer to famous noblewoman Lady Godiva, and rode naked through the streets of the city this morning to protest the destruction of gorilla habitats in Africa.
The Metropolitan Police officer explained his journey also marked the 40th anniversary of the death of Digit the mountain gorilla by poachers.
Digit was befriended by pioneering conservationist Dian Fossey – who was living nearby in a bid to protect the band. She managed to bring three of his killers to court where they were convicted.
Fossey was found murdered herself a few years later – with many suspecting she was murdered by poachers whose activities she had disrupted.
She founded the Digit Fund – later the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International – and inspired the work of several charities including The Gorilla Organisation.
Today there are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild – largely down to them getting caught in snares laid by poaching targeting other animals.
Rangers continue to try and protect them, but they are also targeted by the poachers and, according to Tom, a ranger was murdered just two weeks ago.
Tom – who first viewed the primates during trips to Uganda and Rwanda – said: “After learning about the work the rangers do and the risk to their lives, I wanted to raise awareness of the situation. It confirmed in my mind I needed to help protect them and the gorillas from the next generation and to do as much as I could.”
He admitted he had never used a hand bike before and the added aches and pains made the task all the more gruelling.
He added: “So far it’s been a journey of extremes. Uphill it can be a four mph slog but downhill I could be going 40mph. The cycle is like a donkey – very reluctant to do what I want it to do. I’m not sure which will give out first, me or the bike.
“That said, I like to think my tasks are helping to show people that anything is possible, that if you’re committed you can ultimately achieve anything.”
And if this year’s arduous challenge had not been enough, Tom revealed he had set his sights on a journey across the Sahara.
Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gorilla-go to donate to Tom’s cause.