The Aspinall Foundation has said that Zambezi – a male black rhino from the UK-based Port Lympne Reserve – has died on an aircraft while being flown to Tanzania.
Zambezi was being transported via air from Kent to Tanzania, in partnership with the Grumeti Fund and the Tanzanian government, as part of a programme to repopulate the Serengeti with black rhino.
The Aspinall Foundation said the cause of death is currently unknown however a full investigation will be carried out as soon as possible.
Zambezi was accompanied by a team from the Grumeti Fund Reserve, alongside one of his dedicated keepers and a vet from Africa, experienced in the movement of rhinos and other large animals.
The foundation said the movement of large animals and rhino in particular is not uncommon, 19 black rhinos have been successfully moved from Europe by air to safe havens around the world, in the last few years.
The Aspinall Foundation itself has already successfully translocated eight black rhinos to Africa from its Kent wild animal parks, which has assisted in boosting the dwindling population of black rhino that are registered as critically endangered in the wild.
In addition, these rhinos have successfully mated and are responsible for the birth of at least 15 calves in the last 24 years.
The Aspinall Foundation chairman, Damian Aspinall said: “Sadly Zambezi passed away on the plane on his way to the Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania. Like everyone at The Aspinall Foundation, I am shocked and devastated by the loss.
“We do not yet know what caused his death, but we will, of course, carry out every examination and enquiry possible to see if there are lessons to be learned.”
(Pictured above is a stock picture of a rhino)