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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 January, 2004, 15:42 GMT
Rhinos head back home
Kivu and Tana
There are less than 600 black rhinos left because of poachers
Two black rhinos which were born and bred in Kent are to be released back into their natural habitat.

The five-year-old animals, Kivu and Tana, were raised at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Hythe.

They are soon going to embark on a journey back to South Africa where they will live in a game reserve and help preserve the species.

Port Lympne, founded by John Aspinall, has said it is only the second time rhinos bred in England have been sent back to their native land.

There is no point in just sending animals back to the wild where they are going to be poached
Peter Litchfield
Head keeper, Paul Beer, said: "That is what we are here for - breeding them to be re-released.

"No-one else is doing that with such big animals. There are other collections releasing smaller animals and birds but nothing like the black rhino.

"There are so few numbers of them in the wild especially the South African sub species we have got."

Kivu and Tana will be held in quarantine in the UK for a month before they are loaded on to crates and flown unsedated to Johannesburg.

Safe areas

From there they will be taken on a five-hour drive to reach the game reserve which cannot be identified because of the threat of poachers.

There are less than 600 black rhinos left in the wild because of the problem of poaching.

Port Lympne has the biggest herd of black rhinos outside of South Africa.

Peter Litchfield, collections director, said: "I would hope we will be able to do more of this if we find suitable safe areas.

"There is no point in just sending animals back to the wild where they are going to be poached."

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