If you’re anywhere near Parliament this week, there’s a good chance you’ll see a bright red gorilla pounding the pavements.
Metropolitan Police officer Tom Harrison, AKA ‘Mr Gorilla’, is walking in a mile-long rectangle every day between 7am and 11pm.
He’s wearing a gorilla mask and gloves, covering over 20 miles per day on a route taking him around Whitehall, Horseguards parade, down Embankment and along Bridge Street.
Tom told Metro.co.uk: ‘It has been tough at points, especially the first couple of days. I do go out running at least every other day, but walking is a different type of fitness. It has taken a few days to get used to walking hour after hour. My legs have felt a bit like lead.’
‘I’ve got to interact with lots of people, amused some and perhaps frightened others – not deliberately! If people don’t notice me coming and suddenly see me it can spook them.’
The charity effort is to raise money for the Gorilla Organisation who work in Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo to protect mountain gorillas.
Tom said: ‘There has been a big ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo that hasn’t really been controlled. If gorillas get ebola it’s always fatal. Rangers have been trying to keep people out of the forest to protect them.
‘That’s why I chose my red outfit – it’s kind of an ebola alert.’
He has taken a week of annual leave to be here, taking time away from his job working as a police officer in Camden.
‘This is in some ways a break from the day job, a bit of fun. It’s keeping me healthy,’ he said.
‘I have a phone and a bit of money in my back pocket. But I don’t have a bag – a bit like a gorilla, it’s living hand to mouth really.’
A morning message on Day 5 of my #GreatGorillaWalk for @Gorillas_Org pic.twitter.com/3z9XVAVcCs
— Mr Gorilla (@GorillaSaver) October 23, 2019
So far, he has already met and posed for photos London Mayor Sadiq Khan as well as his local MP Dame Cheryl Gillan.
The walk will continue until Friday, when he will be joined for the last mile by his two sons aged eight and six – also dressed in gorilla costumes.
Jillian Miller, executive director of the Gorilla Organisation, said there has recently been good news for mountain gorillas, which have been reclassified as endangered instead of critically endangered this year. There are now 1,004 left in the wild.
She thanked Tom for his efforts, saying: ‘Tom is by far and away the most outstanding community fundraiser we’ve ever had. He’s unstoppable. He comes to me with these mad ideas and I say, “Oh Tom, you can’t do that, walking around Westminster in a gorilla costume – you’ll get arrested!”’
He reassured her it is a lawful act and Brits are known for their eccentricities.
Visit his JustGiving page here.