The Aspinall Foundation, which runs two wildlife parks in Kent, is appealing for volunteers to help guard its herds of black rhino, after being warned by police that its parks are being targeted by poachers. It is believed to be the first time they have plotted raids in the UK.
Black rhino are critically endangered and have been hunted to the brink of extinction in the wild. Poachers are thought to have targeted the Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks in Kent, as home to one of the world's most important collection of black rhinos, outside Africa.
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. Our volunteers will be recruited responsibly after careful vetting. Their presence will enable us to be vigilant and alert at every point at which the rhino could possibly come under threat."
– Damian Aspinall, the Aspinall Foundation
Mr Aspinall said he would also like to ask visitors to Howletts and Port Lympne to report any suspicious behaviour to staff and volunteers. The Aspinall Foundation is one of the most successful breeders of black rhino. In the last seven years, the foundation has seen 33 successful births.
Security has been stepped up at wildlife parks in Kent in response to a plot to hunt rhinos. Police were tipped off that the animals are set to be targeted at Howletts and Port Lympne animal parks.
Poachers in Africa regularly shoot rhinos to make off with their horns, which are highly valued for alternative medicine in parts of Asia. The parks have called for volunteers to help them carry out 24-hour patrols, while police have also stepped up surveillance.
"What we're worried about is criminals taking it to the next level. We've upped our night-time patrols, we doubled that straight away with our Keepers who live on site. We have to take this as a credible threat. You can get up to £200,000 for a rhino horn. It's used in Far Eastern medicine. It's claimed to have medicinal qualities, which is a nonsense."
– Bob O'Connor, managing director of Howletts and Port Lympne
There was anonymous information through Crimestoppers saying there was a possible attack on rhinos. We've spoken to all the owners of rhinos in the South East and they are taking measures to combat it. All our wildlife officers are aware of the information and we're taking steps to increase patrols in the area."
– PC Michael Laidlow, wildlife crime officer for Kent Police
Rhino horn is worth £65,000 a kilo, which makes it more valuable than cocaine, heroin and gold. Two men were jailed after a failed bid to steal a rhino head from a museum in Norwich in February last year.
There are 20 black rhinos at the parks, out of just 45 in the whole of Europe.
A wildlife park in Kent is being targeted by animal poachers. The Aspinall Foundation which runs the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park says they've recieved a warning from the police over their world famous herds of black rhino.
The park is home to the most important collection of black rhinos, outside Africa. It's believed to be the first time that poachers have plotted raids in the UK.
VIDEO: Primate Keepers at The Aspinall Foundation’s Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent got into the festive spirit early. They treated the black and white Colobus monkeys to early Christmas presents stuffed with seasonal treats.
Keepers at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent had a special delivery recently when they welcomed Asani, a four year old black rhino to his new home. Asani travelled by road, in a journey lasting 8 hours, to arrive at his new home just outside Ashford.
Animal director Adrian Harland said: "Asani is settling in very well to his new home – he’s a very good looking rhino and I’m sure he will be popular with our female rhinos. He’s quite feisty, as a black rhino should be, so hopefully they won’t boss him around too much."
The mammals have been delving into the bright-orange buckets and getting to grips with their favourite snacks, including crickets and mealworms, at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Hythe, Kent.
We are always looking for new ways to encourage mental, physical and sensory perception to keep our residents occupied and happy. Enrichment is an important part of looking after animals at Port Lympne.
– Adrian Harland, Animal Director
Across the park, the Malayan tapirs tried out their skills at the popular Halloween-themed game of apple bobbing.