ZANY zoo-keeper Mike Wilson has spent an entire week dressed as a leopard at Peak Wildlife Park, near Leek, to raise money for a struggling overseas wildlife sanctuary.
The 36-year-old, from Stoke-on-Trent, who has worked at the Staffordshire Moorlands zoo for just over three years, is close to achieving his £1,500 appeal target for the African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mike explained: "Due to South Africa's borders being closed because of Covid-19 restrictions African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary is on the verge of closure.
"This sanctuary is where I discovered my love for animal care and I decided I wanted to pursue a career in animal keeping. So I consider it my duty to do what I can to help them get through this."
African Dawn is home to thousands of rescued animals, ranging from wild cheetahs and warthogs to unwanted pets including parrots, marmosets and meerkats.
Mike added: "Many animals are brought to African Dawn orphaned or injured. Lots are healed and released back into the wild, those that cannot be released due to the extent of their injuries are given a happy and comfortable forever home there".
The sanctuary is also home to the largest bird aviary in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, which houses several species of birds such as endangered crowned cranes.
Mike said: "I first found this sanctuary almost 10 years ago when my wife and I were travelling across South Africa.
"I stayed and volunteered there for two months, and absolutely fell in love with the place.
" I was amazed at how much care goes into looking after these animals, and how loving and caring the owner and managers of the sanctuary were, towards animals and humans alike.
"I loved the place so much that I then returned to stay and volunteer with them five times over the last 10 years. Each time we were made to feel extremely welcome and made more fantastic life-long friends".
"I really do owe it to them that I am happy in my career as an animal keeper today."
The money Mike raises will go towards meeting the cost of food, power bills and the cost veterinary supplies.
It will also help build enclosures to house the animals and keep the sanctuary running as smoothly as possible until international volunteers and tourists can be welcomed back again.
* For more information visit Mike Wilson on Facebook.