Paul O’Grady will give gongs to the nation’s most worthy, adorable and funny animals tonight. Experts, charities and celebrities have voted to decide which laudable animals should get awards. Once you’ve tuned in, why not give a little back to some of the world’s cutest and fascinating creatures in need of help…
1. Orangutan monitoring, Borneo
Dozens of projects in this region aim to help these endangered orange creatures, who are under threat of extinction due to illegal logging in the area. The tropical rainforests of Borneo are at risk from people collecting palm oil, felling timber, mining in the area and clearing the forest for construction. Organisations such as Orangutan Foundation International and Steppes Discovery offer an eco-lodge experience for those wanting to help the project by mucking in at Orangutan Care Center in Pasir Panjang, Kalimantan, where they rehabilitate, monitor and feed orangutans, so they can be released back into the wild.
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2. Panda care, China
Chendu Panda Base for educational tourism is a great place to learn more about these docile giants. Here you’ll find vast areas of woodland scenery that giant pandas, red pandas and other endangered species call home. There are fewer than 2,000 pandas in existence, and volunteers can sign up to help carry out the everyday duties that help them stay strong, healthy and breeding. Duties include preparing food, recording their behaviour and tracking their movements.
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3. Gorilla encountering, Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is not only home to six active and three dormant volcanoes, it’s the location of Gorillas in the Mist and home to the biggest population of endangered mountain gorillas on Earth. Here the species can live free from the threat of illegal poaching. Deep in the rainforest, conservationists offer volunteers the chance to track these powerful creatures in their natural habitat and see fully-grown silverback gorillas in the wild. They have enough strength to rip a human in half… but luckily, they’re relaxed and unthreatened in this safe environment, while visitors should approach with caution; it’s possible to monitor them at a reasonable distance.
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4. Tiger tracking, India
The tiger population is a staggering 40 per cent lower than it was in the 1950s, with only 1,700 wild tigers remaining in India. These endangered cats require forests with access to prey and water, free from construction, logging and poaching, so they can breed. Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, known for its Royal Bengal Tigers, both run the government-launched Project Tiger. Here park rangers offer the chance follow them on their animal censuses, via night safaris and elephant-back treks in the wilderness.
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5. Whale watching, Azores archipelago
In the middle of the Atlantic these little isles are a haven for dolphins, loggerhead turtles and whales. Here, conservations groups such as Biosphere Expeditions run eco-trips where you can record and listen to whales and dolphins communicate with their own kind, by using a technique called hydrophone tracking. They also run epic snorkelling adventures to whale hot spots, with the chance of swimming in the same waters as these impressive creatures and collecting data on their home turf, like sperm whale skin samples, in order to record their migration patterns. Photo-identification is also another key aspect of this project. Take snaps of blue, humpback and minke whales from a catamaran, then record them in the image database on shore.
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6. Elephant conservation, Namibia
Poaching and hunting, and Namibia’s dry conditions, have made it difficult for African elephants to survive. Elephant Human Relations Aid aims to find sustainable and peaceful ways for the local famers and community to live in unity with each other. Conservation projects in the area have increased the population of desert dwelling elephants from 52 to 600 in the past 20 years, but they need more help. Volunteers in the area set up camp, cook under the stars by night and help make a subtle difference between the human settlers and elephants by day, whether by building walls around wells, tracking herds, bottle feeding baby elephants or watching them play in the mud.
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7. Save Tasmanian Devils, Australia
A strange cancer has been wiping out this cute (but vicious) dog-sized species since the 1990s. This rare disease has spread like a plague and causes a tumour to form around their mousey little snouts. A staggering 90 per cent of the Tasmanian Devil population has been wiped out, causing conservationists to step in. Daring volunteers can go on a trip to attempt to capture these creatures and move them to forested areas without the disease. Not only will participants get involved in a thrilling cat and mouse chase, but they will witness untouched wilderness around the remote island.
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8. Seal protection, Scotland
These blubberry, passive sea creatures are in decline, with hundreds of thousands across the globe killed for their fur, are trapped in fishing nets and suffering in polluted waters, caused by construction, illegal waste disposals and climate change. Wild of Heart Ecoholidays offer the chance to shadow a marine biologist on a seal conservation project in the Moray Speyside. Here visitors monitor the local seal, bird and dolphin populations, and track their developments and potentially save them from life-threatening situations.
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9. Puma and Jaguar conservation, Mexico
Deforestation in this part of the world has hugely affected the Jaguar population, it’s predicted the species may be wiped out in 30 years. The 4,000-acre protected El Eden Ecological Reserve is trying to counteract this by monitoring the species with camera traps and offering a safe protected area to breed. Volunteers here sleep under the stars in a cabana, explore the area’s Mayan ruins (frequented by jaguars, pumas and ocelots) and encounter the area’s white sandy beaches and inviting waters.
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10. Save the turtles, Sri Lanka
Help stop the illegal collection of eggs, which are sold on the black market in Asia (apparently, some locals believe they have aphrodisiac qualities). The Bundala National Park on the south coast protects Eggs five species of endangered turtles, and they’ve set up overnight turtle watches on Rekawa Beach so visitors can help too. When the baby turtles are strong enough, they are released into the wild by participants – it’s a powerful experience.
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Images by: Julie Langford, Carine06, Brian Gratwicke, Thomas Schoch, Mark Scott Johnson, Wouter Hagens