The announcement by The Aspinall Foundation that they will be moving their entire herd of 13 African elephants from Howletts Zoo in Kent to Kenya has been welcomed by Born Free.
“Without doubt this will be an enormously challenging project and not without risk, but it sends a powerful message that traditional zoos, even those that place a high priority on the care of their animals, are not the place for elephants and, in our opinion, wild animals in general.” said Will Travers OBE, Co-Founder and Executive President of Born Free.
He continued: “This decision, coupled with the statement by Damian Aspinall, Chairman of the Aspinall Foundation, that he wants to see zoos phased out within 30 years - a position Born Free has consistently taken since the day it was founded in 1984 - marks the beginning of a paradigm shift in thinking and practice, away from the holding of wild animals in ex situ captivity and towards their effective conservation and protection in the wild, where they belong.”
The move is being supported by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, established by the late Dame Dr Daphne Sheldrick and now run by her daughter Angela, which has unparalleled experience in returning elephant orphans to the wild, and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the country’s wildlife conservation agency.
Kenya is home to about 35,000 wild elephants, a number that has more than doubled in the last 30 years. They are protected by robust anti-poaching measures, led by KWS, and supported by many non-government organisations, including Born Free. In 2020, the number of elephants poached in Kenya was 11 (down from 34 the year before), according to official figures, addressing concerns that the Aspinall elephants may be vulnerable to ivory poaching, which remains a threat in many other African countries.
Travers concluded: “If there is anything we can do to assist in this endeavour, based on our work for wild animals spanning nearly four decades, then we are more than willing to step up and help.”
An elephant at Howletts © S Bannerjee
Wild elephants in Kenya © www.georgelogan.co.uk