A 26-year-old zoo worker is aiming to raise £10,000 for a new enclosure for the gorillas he has looked after for over two years... by running a marathon dressed as one of them.
This will be the second time Will Highfield, aka 'Jersey Gorilla', has put on his running shoes on for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, having raised £500 last year.
For this year's Jersey Marathon, Will started fundraising around Christmas hoping to reach a total of £2,000. However, in just over four months he has already made nearly four times that amount – over £7,150 – which inspired him to try and raise £10,000 by the end of the year all in aid of the banana-munching group he looks after.
Pictured: Will and Dr Lee Durrell with the statue of Gerald.
An animal lover, Will went to work in finance after leaving school but soon realised this career was not meant for him. He started volunteering at the zoo and in youth clubs to find something he enjoyed more.
He now works five days as a week at the zoo as a Customer Liaison Officer, a role which sees him selling tickets to visitors but also taking visitors on tours.
On his days off, however, he comes back to the zoo to volunteer with the gorilla family, looking after their food and cleaning the enclosure.
Pictured: Will has adapted his suit so as not to get too hot during his runs. (Easy Tiger)
“I love the zoo. I love the gorillas. It’s full on but it’s really good fun. It doesn’t feel too much like work,” Will says.
With the Zoo trying to raise funds for a new space for its gorilla group, Will decided to do something special this year. He soon got the idea to don a full furry gorilla suit for the marathon.
He has since adapted the suit to allow more air to go through, as he admits it can get a bit stuffy under the fur.
Pictured: Will has been running all over the island with his collection bucket.
He has also cut bigger holes under the eyes to be able to see and continues to make adjustments as he goes through his training.
To reach his fundraising target, Will has planned a series of events, including 14 runs – one in each parish plus one around Queen’s reservoir where he normally trains and Val de la Mare – raffles, scavenger hunts and a charity spinathon.
He will also be at the Durrell Dash on 12 May, along Henry Cavill, to help raise funds for Durrell.
Video: Will raised £1,000 after nine hours on a treadmill.
After The Fitness Agency gave him a treadmill, Will spent over nine hours in his suit in the departures hall at the airport, which helped him raise over £1,000 in one day.
During this day and other events, Will says that people, especially the zoo’s visitors and volunteersm have been hugely supportive.
“It started almost as joke,” he explained. “I had no idea it would catch people’s imagination so much.”
Pictured: Will is hoping to raise funds for a new gorilla enclosure.
Despite all the effort he’s putting in, Will says he is not a runner.
“I’ve never been part of a running class, I’ve never had any gym memberships. Running a marathon was always in the back of my head but I always found excuses not to do it.
“I just want to show that this is the sort of experience that if you put the work into you can do it.”
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