Two powerhouses from the world of nature conservation have given their backing to a charity festival in Derbyshire.
Sir David Attenborough and Chris Packham have both given their blessings to event organiser Megan Birch, who is hosting the fundraising event in her hometown of Hathersage next month.
Sir David Attenborough, in a handwritten letter to Megan, wrote: “I hope the event is a great success,” after she contacted him to tell him about Merazonia Jungle Groove.
The event will raise urgent funds for the charity – a unique wildlife rescue centre in Ecuador.
“Sir David Attenborough must get thousands of letters so I was thrilled when he actually sent a handwritten letter back to me,” said Megan, 25. “I sent him a three-page letter telling him all about the work that Merazonia does rescuing and releasing animals back into the wild who are victim of the illegal pet trade and deforestation.
“I also thanked him for everything he’s done for our planet.
“Sadly he can’t attend on the day, but the fact he wrote back was just amazing.”
Then, at a national rally on bird of prey persecution, Megan met wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham.
He also offered his support for the event along with his new organisation Wild Justice.
Megan said: “After the letter, to then meet Chris Packham and discuss the event with him to, it has been such an honour being able to discuss the charity with some of the biggest names in the world of nature conservation.”
Megan is hosting Merazonia Jungle Groove Festival at the Hathersage Football Pitch from 3pm onwards on Sunday, September 22.
Tickets to the event, which will include live music, stalls, food, drinks, talks and so much more, are on sale now.
Proceeds will be going to the Merazonia wildlife rescue centre in Ecuador.
The charity is very close to Megan’s heart, as she spent three months volunteering at the shelter last year.
Her work there saw her helping nurse injured and abused animals back to health.
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“When I first got there everyone was muddy and smelt of monkey poo and I could just tell I was going to love it,” said Megan.
“I really felt at home instantly. My original plan of staying for one month turned quickly into three and I loved every minute of it.”
A wide variety of animals are cared for at the centre, including primates such as Howler and Woolly monkeys, big cats, parrots, otters, anteaters and sloths.
One of the main reasons Megan had wanted to visit Merazonia was because she’d heard the charity had a strict hands-off policy.
While other centres sometimes offer visitors the opportunity to interact with the animals and encourage the creatures to pose for photographs, Merazonia is focused on releasing animals back into the wild and only allows human interactions when necessary and by experienced volunteers.
Megan, who works as a scuba diver instructor, said: “Seeing these animals arrive stressed and anxious is obviously one of the worst things you can witness, but seeing them released after being cared for is so incredibly rewarding.
“Their whole ethos is about the animals being returned to where they belong and Merazonia has one of the highest release rates in South America. Obviously for some animals that have been badly abused, release is not a possibility, but Merazonia then provide these animals with the best possible long-term care.
“I met so many amazing animals and volunteers from all over the world while I was there.
“Some of the animals have been trafficked, used in attractions and often kept in horrible conditions like tiny cages they can’t even turn around in.”
The centre and its residents had such an impact on Megan, she always had in the back of her mind she’d do something more when she left.
“It’s pretty much been a full time job organising the event but I’m so happy with how it’s all been going,” she said.
“The more people that come along and support the festival the more we can help get Ecuador’s amazing wildlife back into the wild where it belongs. I
“I can’t think of anything more important than helping the natural world survive.”
Tickets to the event are £10 for adults, £5 for under 12s and free for under 5’s.
In addition to Jungle Groove Festival, Megan is also hosting a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign called “Help Save Ecuador’s Amazing Wildlife”.
Search “Merazonia Jungle Groove” on Facebook or visit www.junglegroove.org to book tickets and find out more.