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Late TV star Paul O’Grady leaves Brockenhurst charity Orangutan Appeal UK £50,000 in his will

A NEW Forest charity which rescues orphaned orangutans has been left overwhelmed after late TV star Paul O’Grady left it an “incredible” gift of £50,000.

O’Grady, who died at the age of 67 last year, was a well known animal lover who fronted many TV shows about them.

He became patron of the Orangutan Appeal UK, which is based in Brockenhurst, in 2015 after filming the series Paul O’Grady Animal Orphans.

O'Grady with Archie (Picture: Orangutan Appeal UK)
O'Grady with Archie (Picture: Orangutan Appeal UK)

The charity was founded by Susan Sheward MBE who became aware of the dangers facing orangutans during a visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in 1999.

The primate’s territory in Borneo has declined by more than 55% in the past two decades, and in the last 60 years its population has more than halved.

After returning to the UK Susan became determined to become involved and help them. She set about fundraising for the centre holding jumble sales, raffles and even a charity car racetrack day.

After negotiations with the Malaysian government, Orangutan Appeal UK became the first non-government organisation to be approved to help with the centre. Among the first projects the charity paid for was a new nursery.

Susan, who retired from the charity a year ago, showed O’Grady around the Sepilok centre when he started filming his series there. Like her, he immediately fell in love with its occupants, especially one-year-old Archie.

The primate had been found terrified and alone in the rainforest, with his parents believed to have been captured by poachers.

O’Grady left £50,000 in his will to the centre (picture: Orangutan Appeal UK)
O’Grady left £50,000 in his will to the centre (picture: Orangutan Appeal UK)

The bond between Archie and O’Grady became quickly obvious as he carried the tiny ape around like a baby for much of the time, recalling later: “He didn’t like strangers but when I opened his little cage, he jumped straight on me, and we became mates for life. He taught me what love at first sight is.”

After becoming patron of Orangutan Appeal UK O’Grady said: “I am very proud to know their efforts are helping to make a real difference to Borneo’s rich biodiversity and the populations of critically endangered orangutans.”

He admitted he had occasionally found filming difficult. “Seeing their work first hand and meeting the baby orangutans was heart wrenching. I immediately fell in love with baby Archie which inspired me to get involved.”

O’Grady left £50,000 in his will to the centre, entrusting the charity to use it for its benefit.

Situated in the state of Sabah, Malaysia, its mission is to rescue and provide a safe haven for orphaned and injured orangutans with the hope of reintroducing them to the wild.

Owned and run by the Sabah Wildlife Department, it is deep in the Sepilok-Kabili Forest reserve and has a clinic, treatment wards and nurseries.

Manager of the charity, Adrienne Powell, said the gift will have an “incredible impact” on the charity, adding: “We are deeply grateful for Paul’s extraordinary generosity.

“His incredible support has made a lasting impact on our work, allowing us to continue our efforts in supporting the critically endangered orangutans he adored.

“His legacy of compassion and kindness will live through the positive change it will bring.”

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