A herd of elephants born and raised in a zoo in the English county of Kent are preparing to fly to Kenya where they will be introduced to the wild, the London Evening Standard is reporting.
However, unlike the children’s Disney cartoon favourite elephant Dumbo who could fly just by flapping his ears, these jumbos will be going by plane.
All but one of the herd of 13, which includes three calves, were born at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Canterbury, Kent.
The Aspinall Foundation, the Kenya Wildlife Service and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust are behind the plan to “rewild” the elephants.
Damian Aspinall, the chairman of the Aspinall Foundation, a British wildlife charity that operates Kent Zoo, said: “This is an incredibly exciting project and a genuine world first.
“As with any conservation project of this magnitude, there are obviously big risks, but we consider them well worth it to get these magnificent elephants into the African wild where they belong.”
The elephants will prepare for their long journey by spending time in tailor-made transport crates where they will be constantly monitored by a team of vets ahead of the flight.
The air transportation details have yet to be confirmed.
South African specialists in elephant transportation will be on hand to help when they land, according to The Guardian.
The Aspinall Foundation has achieved great success with reintroducing other species, including gorillas and rhinos, into the wild.
“If this is successful, I would love to see elephants currently held in captivity all over the world be rewilded too,” Aspinall said.
On arrival in Kenya, conservationists will observe the elephants in an enclosure to see their responses to the change in climate and check their reaction to new diseases for six months.
Angela Sheldrick, CEO of the Sheldrick Trust, said: “Since the 1970s we have been helping elephants.
“We have provided a wild future to more than 260 rescued orphans and we operate extensive protection projects to ensure they, their wild-born babies and their wild kin are best protected throughout their lives.
“We look forward to offering that same opportunity to these 13 elephants when they set foot on African soil, home where they belong and able to live wild and free as nature intended.”