"No elephant rewilding project of this scale has ever been attempted before," The Aspinall Foundation, a wildlife conservation charity, announced

By Gabrielle Chung
July 07, 2021 06:34 PM
Credit: Aspinall Foundation

More than a dozen elephants living in the United Kingdom are heading back to their "ancestral homelands" in what wildlife conservationists are calling the world's first attempt at "rewilding" an entire herd.

Thirteen African elephants from the Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, England, will be flown more than 7,000 kilometers (approximately 4,349 miles) and released into the wild in Kenya, The Aspinall Foundation, an animal charity that runs the zoo, announced on their website.

"This is the first time that a herd of elephants has ever been rewilded anywhere in the world," a page about the project reads. "No elephant rewilding project of this scale has ever been attempted before."

Credit: Aspinall Foundation

The herd — which includes three calves — are comprised of two related families and are currently living in a 8-acre enclosure in Kent, according to the foundation.

"Although they are receiving the best care possible, The Aspinall Foundation believes that these animals belong in the wild, and that no elephants belong in captivity," the organization said in a statement.

With a total weight of 25 tons, the herd will be transported in special crates customized to fit each individual elephant.

Two different sites in Kenya are currently under construction to welcome the pachyderms.

Credit: Aspinall Foundation

"Rewilding captive elephants in this way will demonstrate what can be done to ensure elephants really thrive," the foundation said. "This will be the first time ever that a herd of elephants have been returned to Africa from Europe. We hope the spin-off effect will be that zoos no longer breed or trade in elephants globally."

While the foundation said "rewilding" an entire herd of elephants is "uncharted territory," they have found success in reintroducing other animals into the wilderness.

Last year, two cheetahs in captivity, Saba and Nairo, were brought to South Africa in "another Aspinall Foundation world first," the organization said.