Virgin Unite supports endangered rhino translocation
- By Greg Rose -
- Jun 19, 2012
Virgin Unite has partnered with The Aspinall Foundation to help sucessfully translocate three critically endangered black rhino from Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent back to the wild.
The move, to boost reintroduced populations of black rhino in the wild, is a bold decision given the stark and current threat of poaching. With a wild population thought to number less than 800 individuals, Eastern black rhino are the rarest of the three remaining rhino subspecies in Africa. The Aspinall Foundation has successfully carried out similar reintroductions and is confident that the heavily guarded reserve will be the perfect place for the three rhino to give the indigenous population of black rhino a much needed boost.
Conservationist and wild animal park owner, Damian Aspinall, said: "This represents a massive step in the unique ambitions of our Foundation. We have always been passionately committed to restocking natural habitats with species which have become critically endangered."
The three rhinos - two females named Grumeti and Zawadi and one male named Monduli attracted royal attention when Prince William, the Royal Patron of Tusk Trust, paid a private visit to them and their keepers at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park recently. The prince came face to face with Zawadi and even took part in hand feeding her.
Grumeti and Monduli, were born at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, whilst Zawadi joined the park from Berlin Zoo. The group, now enjoying the African climate, were subject to weeks of patient training by keepers who have been painstakingly preparing the intrepid three for their African adventure. As part of this preparation the rhino’s diets were gradually changed and the rhino also spent time on the African Experience, a 140 acre site at the wild animal park, where they mixed with other African wildlife such as zebra, giraffe and wildebeest.
The three rhino flew from Manston airport to a refuelling stop in Bergamo, Italy and then on to Kilimanjaro National Airport in Tanzania. DHL, the world’s leading logistics provider, laid on a specially customised Boeing 757 aircraft specifically modified to provide safe and supervised transportation, during which, the rhinos were provided with in – flight meals of carrots, celery, lucerne (hay), apples, spinach and bananas.
The enormous undertaking, in partnership with Tusk Trust, DHL and Virgin Unite, has put The Aspinall Foundation at the forefront of conservation and established the charity as a cutting edge organisation confident to undertake ambitious and bold plans to maintain their efforts to protect species under real threat from extinction.
Richard Branson and Virgin Unite, the not for profit foundation of the Virgin Group, also supported the translocation of the rhinos by providing a generous donation to cover the costs of creating special comfortable crates for the rhinos to travel.
The move is just one of the pioneering conservation charity’s goals this year, with other captive born animals expected to be released to the wild during the course of the next few months and into 2013. Follow the animals’ stories with keepers’ blogs, video footage and exclusive pictures at http://www.aspinallfoundation.org/backtothewild