Kent Rhinos Released Into African Wild

Three critically-endangered black rhinos have been released into the wild after being sent from their home at a Kent animal park to Africa.

The animals called Grumeti, Monduli and Zawadi underwent weeks of training by keepers at Port Lympne Wild Animal park near Ashford before setting off on their journey to a heavily protected reserve in Tanzania.

Their diets were gradually changed and they spent time in the company of Port Lympne's African wildlife, such as zebra, giraffe and wildebeest.

Before they left Kent, the Duke of Cambridge also paid a visit to the park to meet them, and even took part in hand feeding Zawadi.

The number of eastern black rhinos in the wild is thought to have dwindled to fewer than 800, and they are considered to be the rarest of the three remaining rhino sub-species in Africa.

The Aspinall Foundation, whose work helps prevent some of the world's most endangered species from dying out, has carried out similar reintroductions and officials believe the heavily-guarded Mkomazi reserve will help protect the rhinos.

Port Lympne's owner Damian Aspinall said: "The idea that we should just breed these animals and keep them in zoos and wild animal parks for the rest of their lives makes no sense. To breed these animals in captivity, the end game has to be to return them home.

This represents a massive step in the unique ambitions of our foundation. We have always been passionately committed to restocking natural habitats with species which have become critically endangered.

"Unless we do things like this, there's no hope for them as a species.''

Grumeti and Monduli were born at Port Lympne, while Zawadi joined the park from Berlin Zoo.