A gorilla has enrolled at the University of Exeter.
The giant primate arrived wrapped in pretend brown paper, tied with mock string and covered in air mail stickers, stamps and franks from South Africa, Canada, Indonesia, Australia and Cuba.
This striking piece of public art is named Takamanda, after a national park in the Cameroon set up in 2008 to help protect the endangered Cross River gorilla.
She is part of the Great Gorillas Project, which is celebrating the 90th birthday of Paignton Zoo. Life-size model gorillas have been sponsored by businesses and community groups, painted in original designs by specially-commissioned artists and displayed in public, creating a unique art trail around Exeter and the English Riviera.
Takamanda, who can be found in the Forum building, is the result of a student competition. Third year undergraduate Meriel Fry’s winning design is a globetrotting gorilla that has made stops around the world and collected stamps featuring other endangered animals before finally arriving in Devon. Local artist Jelly brought the design to life.
Takamanda even attended graduation, one of the most important and exciting weeks in the University calendar. Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Campus Services Geoff Pringle said: “We ensured she had her very own cap and gown - she took centre stage in the Forum, where she was admired by everyone and became a popular graduate to have photos taken with!”
Why did the University want to get involved in the Great Gorillas Project? “We have a keen interest in conservation and sustainability. We were therefore eager to support the Great Gorillas Project and Paignton Zoo with their 90th anniversary celebrations. The Project has been fantastic because it impacts so positively on so many different people.
“We are always keen to work on projects which support local organisations and where we can help to raise awareness, which in this instance, is the significant conservation threat facing wild gorillas.”
The University is looking forward to welcoming everyone following the trail who will be coming to see Takamanda over the summer months.
The Great Gorillas Project will help the work to save the Cross River gorillas from extinction. Found along the southern section of the Nigeria-Cameroon border, fewer than 300 Cross Rivera gorillas remain in the wild. It is the most endangered African ape, ranking among the world's 25 most endangered primate species. Illegal hunting for bushmeat and habitat loss are among the threats. For further information go to: www.greatgorillas.org.uk.