In a first of its kind, 13 elephants will be rewilded. The elephants, which were born in captivity in England, will soon leave Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent and head back to Kenya, Africa.
A mission to be completed by The Aspinall Foundation, an organization that’s committed to returning rare and endangered animals back to their natural habitats, will return the 13 African elephants, including 3 calves, by plane to their “ancestral homelands.” A specially-designed 747 named “Dumbo Jet” will fly the elephants totaling 25 tons more than 4,300 miles. This is the “first time that a herd of elephants has ever been rewilded anywhere in the world,” according to the Foundation.
The Howletts Wild Animal Park currently houses the elephants in an eight-acre enclosure and, while “receiving the best care possible,” The Aspinall Foundation is working with the park because it “believes that these animals belong in the wild, and that no elephants belong in captivity,” according to the Foundation.
“After years of weighing up the benefits and the risks, we at The Aspinall Foundation have decided on an unprecedented project and a real world first,” Carrie Johnson, communications director at The Aspinall Foundation, said.
According to The Aspinall Foundation, elephants in captivity face many challenges including a shorter life expectancy, trouble breeding, obesity, foot problems, skin problems, and mental distress. Therefore the Foundation’s purpose to rewild the captive elephants will “demonstrate what can be done to ensure elephants really thrive.”
The Foundation will work with The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service in its effort to rewild.
“Since the 1970s we have been helping elephants,” Angela Sheldrick, CEO of the Sheldrick Trust, said. “Providing a wild future to more than 260 rescued orphans and operating extensive protection projects to ensure they, their wild-born babies, and their wild kin are best protected throughout their lives.”