Three critically endangered black rhinos depart from Manston
Manston Airport has played its part in the transportation of three critically endangered black rhinos, as part of a conservation initiative by The Aspinall Foundation, to the Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.
The three black rhinos, from The Aspinall Foundation’s wild animal park at Port Lympne, will reinforce the population of eastern black rhinoceros in the Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, Tanzania.
DHL Express’s very special cargo consisted of one male rhino, Monduli, and two females, Grumeti and Zawadi, which are now living in the wild for the first time. Black rhino numbers have been significantly reduced due to large-scale poaching.
The rhinos were transported in a specially modified DHL Express operated Boeing 757, to ensure they experienced first class treatment throughout their flight. The aircraft also had enhanced safety features - lifesaving devices and temperature control to accommodate these unique passengers. In addition, space was created on board for two aircraft engineers, two of the rhino keepers from Port Lympne and a specialist veterinarian.
The modifications accommodated not only the animals but their specialist ‘inflight catering’ needs, which included four bales of Lucerne hay, half a bucket of carrots, half a bucket of apples, a box of bananas, celery and spinach and three drums of water.
Charles Buchanan, Chief Executive of Manston, said: “With Kent home to both The Aspinall Foundation and Manston Airport, with our quick turn-around freight handling expertise, we were the obvious partner to assist with the relocation of the three endangered rhinos.
“While our team may be more used to handling horses through our Border Equine Post, the three crated rhinos were expertly loaded and the DHL team then quickly got them on their journey back to the wild.”
The animals flew for ten hours from Manston Airport, near Ramsgate, with a refuelling stop in Bergamo, Italy where a local zoo was on standby with necessary supplies in case any additional resources were required on the first leg of the journey. From Bergamo, the rhinos were transported to Kilimanjaro National Airport in Tanzania where they then continued by road to the National Park.
Following the successful release of the rhinos, The Aspinall Foundation is now finalising plans for the release of the most ambitious and wide-ranging reintroductions into the wild yet.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of the Foundation, commented: “I’d like to thank everybody concerned with the project. The number of animals that we are releasing will bring a much needed boost to indigenous populations, currently under the real threat of extinction. This will include freeing an entire family of 11 captive bred western lowland gorillas to the charity’s flagship project in Gabon.
“In addition to the rhinos and gorillas, The Aspinall Foundation’s Back To The Wild campaign is also planning to release eight Javan langurs, five Javan gibbons and two African bull elephants into protected areas of the wild. This unique and historical event in animal husbandry is only made possible by the success of the breeding programmes at Howletts and Port Lympne and the worldwide wilderness protection schemes.”
Charles Buchanan added “We look forward to working with the Aspinall Foundation again in assisting with these exciting and important programmes.”