Elephants to be flown from UK to Africa in first rewilding project of its kind

A herd of elephants at a wildlife park in Kent will soon be flown to Africa in the first rewilding project of its kind in the world.

The elephants are currently living within an eight acre enclosure at Howletts Wild Animal Park, and are one of the most successful breeding herds of elephants in Europe.

The Aspinall Foundation, which runs Howletts, will fly the 13 elephants, weighing 25 tonnes, more than 7,000 km across the globe to return them to their ancestral homelands.

It is working with The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service to rewild the group, which includes 3 calves.

The herd of 13 includes 3 calves. Credit: The Aspinall Foundation

Two sites in Kenya are being considered as the herd's new home.

The Aspinall Foundation hopes that the world-first project will discourage the trade of elephants globally and 'strengthen commitments to return animals back to the wild'.

Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, said: “As with any conservation project of this magnitude, there are obviously big risks, but we consider them well worth it to get these magnificent elephants back into the wild where they belong.

“By supporting the project, members of the public will be part of conservation history, helping to restore an iconic species to its ancestral homeland.

The elephants at Howletts. Credit: The Aspinall Foundation

Angela Sheldrick, CEO of The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, said: “Since the 1970s, we have been helping elephants, providing a wild future to more than 260 rescued orphans and operating extensive protection projects to ensure they, their wildborn babies and their wild kin are best protected throughout their lives.

"We look forward to offering that same opportunity to these 13 elephants when they set foot on African soil - home, where they belong, and able to live wild and free as nature intended."