Jim Carter Mr Carson

There's nothing quite like a bit of star power to give an important conservation cause a boost. For the stars of everyone's favourite period drama Downton Abbey that cause is protecting Kenya's rhinos from poachers.

Members of the Downton cast swapped drawing-room intrigue, class conflicts and deflecting Violet Crawley's caustic jabs for something a little different recently: creating personalised rhino sketches that are now being auctioned off to raise funds for the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, the largest sanctuary for black rhinos in East Africa. The money raised will be used to fund anti-poaching dog units at the conservancy.  

"We have over 130 black rhinos in total ... and we face enormous threats from poaching as a result of demand for rhino horn from the Far East. One of our strategies going forward is to develop our dog section," says the conservancy's CEO Richard Vigne. 

Ol Pejeta's canine unit is made up of tracker, patrol, assault and multi-role dogs as well as their specialised handlers. It hopes to be able to expand this unit by building new kennels and acquiring new Malinois puppies for training (dogs of this breed make the best conservation canines in the world). 

"A properly operated dog section is something we think will be an enormous deterrent to poaching," Vigne adds. 

Other celebrities, artists and wildlife photographers have also been supporting the cause, including members of the Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead casts. (If you'd like to join the Ol Pejeta Charity Auction head on over to www.charityauctionorganizer.com.)

Judging by the rhino doodles below, some Downton residents are more artistically inclined that others:

Hugh Bonnerville Robert Crawley Earl Of Grantham
Brendan Coyle John Bates
Joanna Froggatt Anna Smith
Lesley Nicol Mrs Patmore
Penelope Wilton Isobel Crawley

Images via Charity Auction Organizer

Top header image: Sascha Wenninger, Flickr