Kenya concerned about UK plan to ‘re-enter the wild’ elephant herd

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Nairobi (AFP)

Kenya expressed concern on Wednesday about plans by an animal protection organization to send a herd of elephants from a British zoo to Kenya to “introduce them to wildlife”.

The Aspinal Foundation said it plans to fly the elephants in a Boeing 747, jokingly called the Dumbo, from southern England to their new home 7,000 kilometers away.

The organization said it will work with anti-poaching teams to help ensure the survival of all 13 animals, including three newborns, when they reach one of the two targeted sites in southern Kenya.

But Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said it was “on record with concern” British media reports about the organisation, which is described as the first to have such projects in the wild.

“The ministry indicates that neither they nor the Kenya Wildlife Service have been contacted or consulted on this matter,” the ministry added.

“Transporting and rehabilitating an animal from a zoo is not easy and it is very expensive,” he said.

A ministry official told AFP that the Kenyan authorities will be guided by specific regulations set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for the movement of animals.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature noted in March that poaching and habitat destruction, particularly through the diversion of land use for agriculture, have dramatically reduced the elephant population across Africa.

Lowland African elephants have declined by 60% in the past half century, leading them to be classified as “critically endangered” in a recent update to the Red List of Threatened Species.

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The Aspinal Foundation indicated that the operation is scheduled for next year, and that it will be the first time that a herd of bred elephants has been returned to the wild.

Aspinal’s head of communications, Carrie Johnson, wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the plan would support the Kenyan economy after the coronavirus.

In an article in British media he said: “Life in Kent is very good for these elephants, from all points of view. But Africa is where they belong.”

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