Sir Ranulph Fiennes greeted University of Liverpool equine vet, Professor Derek Knottenbelt, as he began his 3,000-mile motorbike charity fundraiser from the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.
Professor Knottenbelt is part of a team of six vets who will ride across Europe and north Africa to give training lectures at eight veterinary schools in return for donations to an international animal charity.
The group, who call themselves ‘Vets with Horsepower’, aim to raise £125,000 to help the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) provide more free veterinary treatment for working horses, donkeys and mules in Mali and Mauritania.
Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes saw the group off from the start line at the Royal Mews. He said: “I’m incredibly impressed by the vets’ challenge which is going to require both physical and mental stamina.
“I wish the team the very best of luck for their fantastic cause. Millions of people in the developing world depend on working animals to make a living; so when charities like SPANA provide free veterinary treatment to animals they also help support the livelihoods of whole families too.”
Professor Knottenbelt, who founded Vets with Horsepower, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Her Majesty for allowing us to start our journey from the Royal Mews, home to horses that enjoy the very best standards of equine welfare.
“We want all working animals to be as well-cared for and we hope that people in the UK and at our veterinary talks abroad will donate generously to help working animals in Mali and Mauritania have a better future.”
Money raised from the vets’ challenge will pay for new diagnostic and surgical equipment for SPANA’s veterinary clinics in Mali and Mauritania, and will support the charity’s Riding School for Disabled Children in Bamako, Mali.