Success: fundraising walk for conservation SEARCH NEWS

Marching band

The Ancestor’s Trail raises awareness and funds for the World Land Trust (WLT) to support our work protecting biodiversity across the globe

During the August bank holiday, over 130 people joined a fundraising walk in Somerset to celebrate evolution, biodiversity and the work of WLT.

Inspired by Richard Dawkins’ book, The Ancestor’s Tale, a couple of science teachers decided to found an event which celebrates evolution and biodiversity. This year, funds were raised for WLT and the RSPB.

WLT’s conservation work


A Jaguar lounges in a WLT-funded nature reserve in Paraguay; Jaguars need large protected areas to roam safely making it vital to safeguard large areas of forest for their continued survival © Hugo del Castillo

WLT Council Member, Kevin Cox, spoke at the event and a particular highlight was his description of our conservation project to defend the Chaco in Northern Paraguay.

Widely recognised as one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, the Chaco is a unique ecosystem that harbours a huge diversity of wildlife. It is the few remaining places on Earth that is home to uncontacted indigenous people. Yet the Chaco’s forest, which people and wildlife depend on for their continued survival, is being destroyed at an alarming rate.

WLT helped establish a two and half million acre nature reserve to protect a vast area of the Chaco, jointly managed by our local partner Guyra Paraguay and the Ministry of the Environment, SEAM. We are helping to protect the reserve and its wildlife by funding rangers through the Keepers of Wild programme. The Ancestor’s Trail gave WLT the platform to showcase this conservation project to a new and interested audience. Chris Jenord, event organiser, said:

“Kevin made an excellent contribution and gave us the international dimension we hoped the WLT would bring.”

Fundraising support

Hand painting by artist Victoria Gugenheim

Artist Victoria Gugenheim created this hand painting of the Great Green Macaw to raise funds for WLT © Victoria Gugenheim

Kevin also highlighted the work of artist Victoria Gugenheim, who joined the Ancestor’s Trail event to generously raise funds for WLT and the RSPB through her beautiful hand and body paintings. She created two designs, one of an albatross to symbolise the RSPB’s work and the other of a Great Green Macaw, representing WLT’s conservation projects to protect this species in the wild.

Victoria is still fundraising for both charities through Crowdfunder and although she has successfully reached her target of £300, the more donations she gets the better it is for WLT and the RSPB.

Donate on Crowdfunder »

Professor Richard Dawkins also gave a talk at the three day event, which was inspired by his popular 2004 science book, The Ancestor’s Tale. The book is loosely modelled on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but instead of pilgrims journeying to Canterbury, Dawkin’s protagonists are living species, journeying back through evolutionary time.

Body-painted dancer

When the walkers arrived at the beach, they were greeted by dancer Helena Biggs whose double-helix body-paint was a creation by artist Victoria. Notice Darwin’s famous 1837 sketch book scribble on her shoulders © Jo Balcombe

The fundraising walk, subtitled ‘a pilgrimage to the dawn of life’, symbolically re-enacted this journey with the footpaths over the Somerset hills representing the various branches of Darwin’s ‘Tree of Life’. The tips of these branches were populated by different groups of walkers, who, with a little pre-planned choreography, were co-ordinated so that an ever increasing band of pilgrims arrived together at a rocky beach representing our shared origins some 3.8 billion years ago. Chris said:

“The 130 people that took part were treated along the way to words of wisdom, poetry, music and, for the last stretch – in line with our celebratory theme – a marching band. When they arrived beside the sea, at the dawn of life, a double-helix body-painted dancer emerged and, to the band’s accompaniment, performed a surreal and moving accolade to life on Earth.”

WLT would like to thank all the organisers of The Ancestor’s Trail and everyone who took part. Particular thanks go to artist Victoria Gugenheim for continuing to raise funds for WLT and to our council member Kevin Cox for helping promote our urgent conservation work.

More information