By Jamie Smith
A gang of animal fanatics have trekked up Mount Everest in huge furry costumes – to raise awareness of the plight of big cats.
After almost a year of planning, the three-strong Trek for Big Cats team achieved their goal of reaching the 17,600ft Everest Base Camp earlier this month – facing high altitude, dust, thin air and fatigue in cumbersome lion, tiger and leopard mascot costumes.
South African-born Gareth Legg donned the huge fluffy costumes with pals Tracey Bruton and Luca Svoboda, completing the 12-day expedition last month.
The Edinburgh-based trio launched the stunt to raise awareness of habitat loss, human/animal conflict, trophy hunting, captive breeding and the bone and body part trade and will next attempt to reach the 19,340ft summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Gareth said: “It was only when I put the lion mascot on for the first time that the reality and enormity of this special expedition really sank in.
“Our expedition was a huge success.
“We had a phenomenal response on the trail with trekkers and locals.
“We are hoping that our expedition will inspire people around the world.”
Gareth’s thirst for big cat conservation started many years ago when working as a safari guide, this led to his bigger picture passion of conserving wildlife by raising money for UK-based international wildlife charity Born Free.
After twelve months of travelling, passion and dedication and a gruelling 12-day trek, the group made it to the Everest Base Camp.
They hope to become a driving force behind giving ordinary people solutions to assists with the cause.
Solutions such as refusing to take part in pay-to-pet organisations, big cat selfies, canned or trophy hunting and even traditional Chinese medicine that contains big cat body parts as part of the recipe.
While travelling to the base camp they stopped off at primary schools in Khumbu Valley, where they hosted educational activities with the children stemmed around wildlife conservation.
Gareth added: “I am even more determined now with the help of the mascots and my incredible team members Tracey and Tim.
“If you see us, don’t be scared to come and say hi and help pledge your paw print to the conservation of big cats and their wild habitats.”