A SURPRISING match between an Oxfordshire athlete and an author is raising money for UK zoos.

Fiona Bunn, Junior World Orienteering Champion who lives in Abingdon, has teamed up with author of popular children’s picture books 'Lum and Lum’s Mum' Josie Dom.

The two women partnered together for the 'Animalympics' fundraiser after it became clear British zoos are facing a financial crisis that threatens to force many of them to permanently closed.

The initiative was inspired by Ms Dom's latest project – a poem on the animal kingdom Olympics where animals compete instead of humans.

It all began in April when her daughter told her that sloths were good swimmers.

The conversation inspired the children's author to write a poem about 67 animals competing in 48 Olympic sports events, all because people are not able to compete this year because of the Covid-19 crisis.

While orienteering is not an Olympic discipline yet, athletes compete at national level.

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It is Ms Dom''s children who are 'fascinated' at the sport and have been inspired by Ms Bunn’s successes, which is how she became involved in the fundraiser.

The athlete said: "I am happy to see so many different sports being celebrated, even in the absence of the Olympics, and all for a good cause.

"Even better, my sport, orienteering, is included.

"It is often overlooked by others with much more publicity, but it really is the ideal sport for all ages to stay active and enjoy being outside."

Ms Bunn, who also competes in mountain running and cross country, is part of Thames Valley Orienteering Club, which promotes the sport in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The junior champion is amongst other distinguished athletes – including Olympians and Paralympians – who are helping the campaign.

Ms Bunn is reading the orienteering verse from the poem, in exchange for people's donation to the GoFundMe.

Contributors will receive a daily video covering the 'Animalympics in place of the missing Olympics coverage.

Ms Dom explained why she decided to start the fundraiser.

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The children's author said: "With animals on my mind, and having spent many hours enjoying zoo visits with my two children, the plight of zoos in the UK struck a chord for me and I wanted to do something to help, as do many others.

"In my Animalympics poem the animal kingdom saves the Olympics and now they are then ready to step up to help their cousins in zoos."

The fundraiser was started at the end of last month and by now almost £500 have been donated from an initial target of £1,000.

Some of the struggling zoos that the money will go to include Colchester Zoo, Chester Zoo, Belfast Zoo and Twycross Zoo.

Donors will be able to nominate their favourite zoo and all money raised will go to the zoos themselves to use to meet their daily operating costs.

The Government announced a £100 million rescue package for England’s cash-strapped zoos and aquariums last month following the pandemic.

To support the cause to help UK zoos visit gofundme.com/f/animalympics-helps-zoos