02 10/02/2011

Brad and Angelina donate $2million

A conservation centre supported by Chester Zoo has received a major boost after Hollywood mega-stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pledged US$2million to help it further its work.

Brangelina, as the couple is known, made the donation to the N/a’an ku se Sanctuary in Namibia - the birthplace of their daughter Shiloh - after spending Christmas at the wildlife lodge.

The sanctuary is run by Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren.

“We have known Rudie and Marlice for many years and continue to be impressed by their hard work and dedication to the people and conservation of the land and wildlife of Namibia”, said Jolie.

“The new section of the project will be under N/a’an ku se and in Shiloh’s name. We want her to be very involved and grow up with an understanding of her country of birth”.

Chester Zoo has co-funded the Sanctuary’s Carnivore Research Project since 2009.

The programme works with local farmers and land owners to reduce cheetah and human conflict and protect the cheetah population in the wild.

Cheetahs in Namibia that stray out of conservation zones and on to farmland are often killed by farmers who fear they are a threat to their livestock and have become one of the world’s most threatened species.

But thanks to the international collaboration involving the N/a’an ku se sanctuary, Wildtrack, Africat and Chester Zoo, the programme has been able to pioneer a new technique to identify cheetahs from just their paw prints. This has allowed scientists to understand the movements of cheetahs and enable problem animals to be identified and relocated, protecting them for future generations.

The team has also used GPS tracking collars, fitted to a number of cheetahs, to provide evidence that they were not involved in recent livestock predation in the area.

Roger Wilkinson, Head of Field Conservation and Research, said: "We are involved in lots of outreach conservation activities that complement our conservation work in the zoo - work which helps many different species throughout the world.

"It’s great to think that some of this work has captured the imagination of Hollywood’s most famous couple and the money they have kindly donated will go a long way to helping the conservation programmes run by the sanctuary”.