VISITORS to Exeter city centre were welcomed to the dark side on Saturday, August 3, when Darth Vader Gorilla made his anticipated appearance at the Harlequins shopping centre.
Accompanied by his loyal stormtroopers, staff from Cavanna Homes, and his creator, Mandii Pope, Darth Vader Gorilla was introduced to the people of Exeter for the launch of the gorilla trail.
The life-size gorilla has been sponsored by Cavanna Homes, leading south west homebuilder, as part of the Great Gorilla Project, part of Paignton Zoo's 90th anniversary celebrations.
The launch on Saturday included lots of activities including colouring competitions to win a trip to Go Ape, a treasure hunt competition and the opportunity to meet and greet Darth Vader Gorilla alongside his stormtroopers.
The Great Gorillas project involves an art trail featuring the 30 life-size sculptures of gorillas around the streets, parks and open spaces of the English Riviera and Exeter, with a few surprises along the way.
Visitors to Exeter and the South West can see the sculptures of gorillas, along with 20 smaller sculptures designed and painted by schools in Devon and Somerset until Sunday, October 13. They will then be at Paignton Zoo from Friday, October 18, to Sunday, October 20, before being auctioned for charity on Wednesday, November 6.
The aim of the project is to raise awareness among the community of the plight of wild gorillas and how the local business community and members of the public can make a difference.
The Cavanna team jumped at the chance of sponsoring the celebrations because the event also coincides with the company's own 90th birthday in August this year. Cavanna also sponsored Hippocampus Guttulatus Gorilla who is situated on Beacon Quay, Torquay (outside Living Coasts).
Ellie Smith from Cavanna Homes said: "We are delighted to be a part of The Great Gorilla Project and love the finished gorillas. Darth Vader has caused quite a stir in Exeter with lots of people turning up to be photographed with him and his stormtroopers. This has been a great opportunity to help raise awareness of the conservation issues surrounding gorillas and also bringing the local community together to celebrate art and business in the south west."
Money raised through The Great Gorilla Project, Paignton Zoo, will provide funds to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to support Cross River gorilla research and conservation as well as a local community project in South Devon.
Download the gorilla trail map at www.greatgorillas.org.uk/about-great-gorillas/trail or view more pictures of Darth Vader Gorilla and Hippocampus Guttulatus Gorilla on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Cavanna-Homes-Ltd/444652242216919?fref=ts
Darth Vader Gorilla can be seen in the window at the Harlequins Shopping Centre in Exeter until October 13 and access for photo opportunities is available at weekends.