HEART-RENDING GORILLA PHOTOGRAPH WINS TWO NATIONAL AWARDS

A heart-rending photograph capturing an intimate moment between a new born baby gorilla and her mother at Blackpool Zoo has scooped two top awards at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquarium (BIAZA) awards 2010. It was taken by regular zoo visitor Sharon Bentley, who has had no photography training, just days after Meisie the Western Lowland gorilla was born in May this year. Blackpool Zoo entered the picture, which Sharon entitled ‘Safe’ into the 2010 BIAZA photography competition category ‘Life in a BIAZA Collection’. After coming first in its section it was entered into the overall category of ‘Best Picture of an Endangered Species’ in which it was, once again, victorious. Sharon, who is 44 and lives in Preston, holds an annual membership at Blackpool Zoo along with her daughter Nicola, who is 23. They visit the zoo as often as they can and when Sharon spotted new mum Miliki cradling her sleeping new born she couldn’t resist capturing the moment on camera. “I wasn’t expecting to see such a breath-taking image and I simply had to get a picture of them both in such a naturally beautiful embrace,” explained Sharon. “When I saw how fantastically it had turned out I sent it to the zoo and they contacted me to ask if they could use it with the announcement of the birth of the baby, which I was more than happy for them to do. “The next thing I know it is being used on TV, in broadsheets and being discussed on national radio – it was amazing! “I was then asked if the zoo could enter it into the BIAZA photography competition and I was completely bowled over when I found out I had won not one but two awards. “I never thought that taking the picture would lead to all this and it all started by me being fortunate enough to witness a heart-stopping moment between a mother and baby.” Jude Rothwell, Marketing and PR Coordinator at Blackpool Zoo said: “We were overjoyed when Sharon sent the picture of Miliki and Meisie through to us. “We received it just days after we had the magnificent news that the first gorilla ever to be born here in Blackpool had arrived safely and completely naturally overnight on May 7th. “Sharon has been wonderful in allowing us to use the picture, firstly for us to announce our news to the world and, secondly, for us to enter it into the BIAZA competition. “We get hundreds of striking images of our animals sent through to us by our visitors but this one really caught the essence of a magical moment and we can’t thank her enough.” -ends- Pictures show: SAFE: The winning entry Sbfour: Sharon Bentley with her awards Notes to editors: • Blackpool Zoo is owned by Parques Reunidos, the second largest European leisure parks operator and a leading world wide player. • Blackpool Zoo is home to over 1,500 mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates set amidst thirty-two acres of mature woodland and lakes. The zoo’s signature animals include elephants, giraffes, big cats, gorillas, orangutans, sea lions, primates, zebras and kangaroos. • Blackpool Zoo is open every day from 10am. Blackpool Zoo, East Park Drive, Blackpool, FY3 8PP. Tel: 01253 830830.

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