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Namibian women bare all for animal welfare calendar

Windhoek — Monty, a white mongrel with black ears and a thoughtful expression, sat next to her owner at a Windhoek shopping centre and enjoyed pats from small children, as their mothers shrieked in surprise.

The mums were paging through a calendar showing Monty posing with women, well, showing the full monty themselves, in the nude, discretely covered at strategic areas by dogs, cats and even a rabbit.

Desperate to raise funds for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), 12 mostly middle-aged Namibian pet lovers bared it all with furry models from an animal shelter — though most of these animals were since lucky enough to be adopted.

The outcome was a tasteful collection of professional black and white photos in a 2010 calendar with the motto: "Dare to go bare because we care."

"We were extremely nervous at the first shooting session, but sipping some good wine helped, and photographer Tony Figueira was very understanding," said Tatjana Rapp, a SPCA committee member in the Namibian capital.

What started as a joke, with an ambitious print run of 2,000 copies at 300 Namibian dollars each (40 US dollars, 28 euros), became a money-maker in the Christmas shopping fever.

"We sold just over half of the calendars now and hope all are gone by the end of the year," said Rapp, a businesswoman with her own company who posed with Snoopy, who resembles a terrier.

The project was modelled on the original "Calendar Girls" in Britain, a group of women who produced a nude calendar in 1999 to raise funds for leukaemia research after the husband of one of the women died of the disease.

Their story was told in a 2003 award-winning film of the same name, and they still raise funds for medical research with their calendars every year, though they no longer bare it all.

The Namibia project was inadvertently launched by a radio joke.

"We were unaware of this but a commercial radio station told listeners on April 1, April Fools Day this year, that the Windhoek SPCA would produce a nude calendar like the British originals," said Monty’s owner Kirsten Drews, another SPCA committee member.

"People phoned the SPCA during that day asking if this was true. That is how we found out," said Drews, who did October with a Siamese cat.

"After talking to the ‘culprits’ at the radio station and having had a good laugh, we actually said, why not, and then seriously started to plan the project."

A paediatric nurse, Drews recently started training dogs for use in therapy with elderly people and disabled children. Monty is set to become Namibia’s first qualified therapy dog, if he and Drews pass their exams in Germany.

The models — mainly SPCA committee women and volunteers and a radio announcer from the station that started it all — hope to raise 600,000 Namibian dollars (78,500 US dollars, 54,600 euros), about half of the annual SPCA budget.

"The SPCA has annual operating costs of about 1.5 million Namibian dollars and we depend entirely on donations, membership fees and fundraising projects," Rapp told AFP as she sold another calendar.

Calendar production costs were minimal, with professionals donating time for photo shoots, layout and art work and companies sponsoring the cover and calendar pages.

The project also aims to raise awareness about the responsibilities of pet ownership, notably during the holidays when animals are often abandoned as owners head on vacation or hurt on pointy fences and walls in a panicky flight from the sound of New Year’s Eve fireworks.

"So many lost, frightened and injured pets are brought to our shelter then. Our staff and volunteers work in overdrive," said "May girl" Ilga Gluck, the SPCA chairwoman who posed with Oscar, a Siamese cat.