The wildlife conservation charity TUSK held a 25th Anniversary Ball at the historic venue of Syon Park, invited by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland; Syon has been the seat of the Northumberland family for 400 years. A Maasai drumroll greeted invitees as they stepped onto the famous black and white marble floor of the Graeco-Roman palace. A champagne reception in the some of the finest Robert Adam (arguably Britain’s best 18th century architect) rooms, was sponsored by Justerini and Brooks, then the 500 guests filtered into a black dinner tent in which the ceiling was lit by lookalike stars.
Charlie Mayhew, the original founder of TUSK, whose charming perseverance has ensured that the small charity punches above its weight, gave a talk about how lions are now the most endangered species with a population of less than 25,000: the African lion now exists in just 1% of its historic range. The elephant population of Africa is now 4,00,000, half what it was in 1990 and three rhinos everyday are barbarically poached for their horn. Mayhew said, “We are the generation that is presiding over this race to extinction and we all have to take responsibility for it… our children and grandchildren will never forgive us if we standby and allow our most cherished creatures to be confined to cartoons and storybooks.”
Tusk Royal patron Prince William, Duke of Cambridge continued the warnings, confirming that elephants and rhinos will be extinct in less than two decades unless more action is taken and more people get involved in saving endangered animals. He praised the large Chinese attendance at the event and the recent Chinese Government and civil society initiatives.
The elephant population of Africa is half what it was in 1990 and three rhinos everyday are poached for their horn. “Our generation is presiding over this race to extinction and we all have to take responsibility. Our children and grandchildren will never forgive us if we allow our most cherished creatures to be confined to cartoons and storybooks.”
David Attenborough praised TUSK’s work over the years via videolink. Martin Bayfield the English 6’7” former rugby union footballer introduced the auction, Bayfield was particularly relevant on the eve of the World Rugby Tournament. Landrover had donated two tickets to the final and Bayfield’s fundraising commentary was humourous, self deprecating and persuasive. Additionally there was golf, yachts, Michel Roux cooking training, sculptures, skiing and safaris on offer but the ultimate prize was the last Land Rover Defender 90 off the line which reached a record £55,000 (about £20k above retail price). The total raised by the auction was in excess of £4,00,000. This will be the year’s single biggest contribution to the 2015 fundraising goal of £5million that will support 50 community education and conservation projects across 18 countries in Africa.
The Ball Committee was chaired by the indefatigable Dragon and Tusk patron Deborah Meaden, whose guests included fellow Dragon’s Den panelists Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis.
The gorgeous Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Joss Stone sang her heart out to the delight of the audience. She then invited a couple of surprised dinner guests to have a little dance with her, including this reporter.