Former High Sheriff's bid to preserve part of the rainforest for the endangered primates
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Michael Copestake and wife Dana have set up a JustGiving page to help raise the £2,500 needed to help endangered gorillas and monkeys living at the Bwindi Mountain Reserve in South West Uganda. It’s at almost £1,500.
The former senior partner of law firm Freeths visited the Reserve in 2012 and met chief ranger Gad Kanyenyango. Gad has been offered the land in exchange for some of his agricultural land and an additional payment of 10,000,000 Ugandan shillings, which is just over £2,000.
Mr Copestake is looking for help in raising the funds to buy a piece of the rainforest that is home to the primates, to protect their existence.
According to the WWF, only 1000 mountain gorillas remain in the wild and the Bwindi Mountain Reserve is one of the last places where endangered mountain gorillas can be seen in their natural habitat.
The former chair of Derby City Council-backed careers scheme E4E, and one of the founding members of Marketing Derby, said: “Back in 2012 my family and I visited the Bwindi Mountain Gorilla reserve in South West Uganda. The reserve, itself, is 7,000 feet up in the mountains.
“We stayed overnight in a village and trekked for a couple of hours through the jungle before we found the gorilla family. It was a life-changing experience; they really are such remarkable creatures.”
Dana added: “It was the most extraordinary day and a tick on my bucket list. The whole experience was one of the most humbling, moving and wonderful times of my life and we’re proud, now, to call chief ranger Gad a friend.”
It has been a difficult few years for Gad and his community, and Mr Copestake has stayed in touch with them.
He said: “The war in Ukraine has hit them hard mainly because Ukraine was their chief source of supply of grain.
"During covid the community suffered severe food shortages and, regrettably, one silverback gorilla was poached and killed for meat as you may have read in the press at the time.
“Notwithstanding, Gad and his rangers have stood firm and the gorilla community they look after continues to grow.”
The small piece of rainforest that the Copestake family are raising funds for is opposite Gad’s village, which has frequent visits from the gorillas and monkeys.
The owner has been approached to sell the land for it to be cleared for tourism, but he has now agreed to sell it to Gad who intends to use the land as a rainforest for Gorilla conservation and his local community.
He said: “The amount needed to purchase the land is not much. I have spent 12 years since our family visit dealing with Gad and know that the money raised will go to a good cause.”
As well as supporting causes abroad, the Copestake family are also champions of local charities including the Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre, of which Michael has been a trustee of for 30 years.
And, during their visit to Uganda, they were introduced to young Ugandan boy Linken. They have supported Linken in studying for his A-Levels and helped to re-educate the community that was reliant on poaching the wild animals that live alongside them.
“Whilst we were in Uganda, Gad told us of a young boy – Linken – whose father was poaching wild animals,” added Mr Copestake, “he asked if we could help support the family and provide an education for Linken. Eleven years later and Linken is doing well and is currently studying for his A-Levels.”
Anyone who wants to donate to help the cause can do so by visiting justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dana-copestake.