Howletts & Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks Under Threat From Poachers

Fri, 29/03/2013 - 3:46pm

The Aspinall Foundation, the UK’s leading wildlife conservation charity has been alerted to a threat to its world-famous herds of black rhino, after receiving a specific warning from police this week that its UK wildlife parks are being targeted by rhino poachers.

It is believed to be the first time that poachers, who have hunted the critically endangered species to the brink of extinction in the wild, have plotted raids in the UK.  They are thought to have targeted Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks in Kent, as home to the world’s most important collection of black rhinos, outside Africa.

The Aspinall Foundation is the most successful breeder of black rhino in the world. In the last seven years, the Foundation’s unique animal husbandry has seen the successful births of 33 black rhino, in captivity. The Aspinall Foundation’s rhino are kept in the relative freedom of hundreds of acres of Kent countryside and are currently part of the Foundation’s Back To The Wild programme.

This unique and vital conservation initiative will see dozens of mainly captive-bred, endangered and critically endangered animals, returned to their natural habitats around the globe, to help restock the wild with species man has driven to the brink of extinction.

Among the first to leave under this initiative were three of the Foundation’s black rhino from Port Lympne, which nine months ago were returned safely to Tanzania - where they continue to flourish. Poachers in Africa hunt rhino relentlessly in pursuit of their horns, which they hack off the corpses, before illegally trading them for more than the value of their weight in gold.

This summer, the next phase of the conservation charity’s Back To The Wild appeal, will see the unprecedented return to Gabon of a complete family of 10 western lowland gorillas.  A group of langurs and gibbon have also been sent home to protected natural environments in Indonesia.

Damian Aspinall said: “It is tragic and beyond belief that, as we do everything possible to restore these magnificent animals safely to the wild, the human traders who seek to profit from their slaughter should bring their vile activities to the UK.

“In the light of what Kent police have told us is a genuine threat, we will do everything to protect our herds.  We will be vigilant and alert at every point at which the rhino could possibly come under threat.  We would also ask that visitors to Howletts and Port Lympne report any suspicious behaviour to staff.'