Meet the dancer who puts the wild into wildlife: nightclub dancer cares for endangered animals in Africa

An American beauty helps fund her wildlife conservation efforts by dancing in nightclubs to pay for trips to Africa.

Former NFL cheerleader Marlina Moreno, 24, has launched her own business to help the conservation of exotic animals around the world.

Marlina with a baby elephant

Marlina with a baby elephant

During the day she studies for her second MA in Conservation Biology but at night she struts her stuff as a club dancer to pay for her travel.

The model, featured by Sports Illustrated, traded her glamourous life as a pro cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers to visit the South African jungle in 2012.

Marlina Mareno dancing at Side Bar

Marlina Mareno dancing at Side Bar

She immediately fell in love with the wildlife and quit cheerleading to start Pink Monkey Media – shooting wildlife conservation documentaries.

Some of the causes she has worked with include the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), Surin Project, Monkey Foundation and Project Wildlife.

Marlina with some giraffes

Marlina with some giraffes

Marlina has visited eight different countries across Asia, Africa and South America – while her latest was a field research trip to Borneo to work with orangutans.

The Californian chick, who lives in Los Angeles, said: “I always wanted to travel and to exotic places but I didn’t grow up with money.

“I had a pretty modest childhood and we didn’t travel much.

Marlina Mareno working as a dancer for Fluxx

Marlina Mareno working as a dancer for Fluxx

“But the path I’ve been on over the last few years has allowed me to marry my love of wildlife and filming – it has changed my life.

“It’s a very different lifestyle but it was amazing and I cried when I had to leave.

“Borneo was amazing and I was in Malaysia learning about primate conservation and all that is going on with the palm oil industry.”

Marlina Mareno (R) with another dancer at Fluxx night bar

Marlina Mareno (R) with another dancer at Fluxx night bar

Marlina’s work in conservation is a far cry from her glitzy weekend job as a nightclub dancer in San Diego to help pay the bills.

She added: “When I’m in the jungle with no make-up on people don’t expect me to be half naked dancing at night clubs when I get home.

Marlina with a chimpanzee

Marlina with a chimpanzee

“And when I’m at home dancing people tend to be surprised to find out I travel and spend months in the wilderness.

“It’s interesting to see people’s reaction. I think people assume you to be a certain way – people expect me to be a certain way.

“They see a young pretty girl and assume I will be high maintenance or stuck up or materialistic.”

Marlina Mareno cheerleading for San Diego Chargers

Marlina Mareno cheerleading for San Diego Chargers

But the brunette beauty, who grew up on a farm in California, reckons she has always been a tom-boy at heart.

She said: “I hate make-up and shaving my legs – I’m not really girly.

Marlina Moreno with a Shoebill

Marlina Moreno with a Shoebill

“I grew up on a farm in the countryside riding horses with tons of space and outdoors and around animals.

“I never planned on dancing it’s just something that happened but it’s been a great platform and I’ve been able to bridge two different worlds.”

Marlina Mareno dancing at SideBar

Marlina Mareno dancing at SideBar

As well as working on an upcoming eco-travel show, Marlina plans to re-visit Uganda later this year to complete a media project.