The Aspinall Foundation hosts Kenya Ministry and Wildlife Service delegates to discuss next phase of world-first elephant rewilding project
The Aspinall Foundation recently welcomed a Kenyan delegation to discuss the charity’s world-first project to rewild 13 elephants from the United Kingdom to Kenya.
The delegation, headed by the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Hon. Najib Balala, also included the KWS Director General Brigadier (Rtd.) John Waweru and Director of Strategy Edwin Wanyonyi, who were in the UK attending the World Travel Market and COP26 and also visited Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury, to see the 13-strong elephant herd and key staff involved in their care. They were hosted by The Aspinall Foundation’s Chairman, Damian Aspinall.
A series of comprehensive ecological assessments and Environment and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) are being conducted by Kenya’s Wildlife Research and Training Institute to select the perfect destination for the rewilding.
Work has also commenced on the travel habituation process for the animals. The elephants are learning to respond to prompts from their keepers and will begin to feel comfortable entering and exiting their individually-designed transport crates. Only once the experienced team of animal carers, behaviourists and veterinarians at Howletts are confident with the herd’s development and the Kenyan processes have been satisfied, will the translocation take place. It will be the first time that a herd of elephants has ever been rewilded in the world.
The Aspinall Foundation's experience with rewilding projects around the globe will help guide the animals' transition, working in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service. They will be supported by the expertise of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which has been at the forefront of African elephant conservation for more than four decades.
The Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife, Hon. Najib Balala, said: “We are delighted to be working with The Aspinall Foundation to make this monumental project a reality. Our engagements have been hugely positive, and we firmly believe that this will be a significant opportunity for Kenya.
“In line with our policy, Kenya will be working very closely with the UK on the rewilding strategy, the necessary international and in country requirements including consultation with IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group to facilitate the programme and implementation plan. It is a chance to change the lives of these elephants and to complete an important chapter for our country and for conservation history.”
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, said: “This meeting has further strengthened our relationship with the Ministry and KWS, familiarised them with our cherished herd and been a positive step towards the next exciting phase. Working closely with their expert team will enable us to select the optimum habitat for these magnificent animals and ensure the smoothest possible transition to their new lives in the wild.”
The Aspinall Foundation also hopes that this rewilding project will stimulate a positive effect in the zoo industry by discouraging the trade in live elephants globally and strengthening commitments to return animals back to the wild, wherever possible.