LONDON – British conservationists say two critically endangered eastern black rhinos bred in captivity in England have given birth in the wild in Africa – a development likely to please Prince William.
The Aspinall Foundation said Sunday that the two females bred at its wildlife park in southern England and released near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania have given birth after mating there with a male who had also been bred in captivity.
The two females named Grumeti and Zawadi had been given a send-off by Prince William when they departed for Tanzania in 2012. William and his brother Prince Harry have been active in recent years in trying to protect wildlife in various African countries.
Conservations say the transfer from rural England to Tanzania posed a substantial logistical challenge: The fully-grown rhinos – each weigh about 2,200 pounds – travelled back to their ancestral homelands via plane, boat and truck.
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They both mated with Jamie, who had been born in captivity in the Czech Republic before being relocated to Tanzania.
The foundation says each female has given birth in recent weeks to healthy babies after pregnancies lasting roughly 15 months. The babies each weighed about 17 pounds.
Grumeti’s baby, born first, has been named Mobo. Zawadi’s offspring has yet to be named.
Conservationists say only about 700 of this sub-species of rhinos remain in the wild. Many have been killed by poachers seeking rhino horn, which are commonly used in traditional medicine for treatment of a variety of ills.
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Foundation chairman Damian Aspinall says the births represent a “vital” breakthrough in the bid to protect this endangered species.
“Reintroduction combined with robust protection is an incredibly effective conservation tool, helping to protect habitat as well as repopulate a nearly extinct species,” he said. “This is what modern conservation should be about and is the culmination of decades of effort and commitment by the Aspinall Foundation.”