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."
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.