June 21 - DHL has transported three critically endangered black rhinos, as part of a conservation initiative by The Aspinall Foundation, from Manston Airport, Kent, UK to the Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania.

The movement of the three black rhinos, which were born in captivity at The Aspinall Foundation's Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, is part of an initiative to reinforce the reintroduced population of eastern black rhinoceros in theMkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, Tanzania, with the support of Tusk Trust, adynamic conservation organisation. Black rhino numbers have been significantly reduced due to large-scale poaching.

DHL's very special cargo consisted of one male rhino, Monduli and two females, Grumeti and Zawadi, which are now living in the wild for the first time.

The rhinos were transported in a Boeing 757, specially modified to ensure they experienced first class treatment throughout their flight and to ensure their safety on board. The aircraft also had enhanced safety features - lifesaving devices and temperature control to accommodate these unique passengers. In addition, space was created on board for two aircraft engineers, two of the rhino keepers from Port Lympne, two aircraft loadmasters and a specialist veterinarian.

The modifications accommodated not only the animals but their provisions, which included four bales of Lucerne hay, half a bucket of carrots, half a bucket of apples, one box of bananas, one box of celery, one box of spinach and three drums of water.

The animals flew for ten hours from Manston Airport, near Ramsgate, with a refuelling stop in Bergamo, Italy where a local zoo was on standby with the necessary facilities and supplies in case any additional resources were required after the first leg of the journey. From Bergamo, the rhinos were transported to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania from where their journey continued by road to the National Park.

Phil Couchman, CEO of DHL Express UK & Ireland commented: "It was a very exciting moment for DHL to be able to serve as the international carrier of these animals, and we are proud to support this very worthwhile conservation programme.

"Our greatest priority was the safety and well being of the rhinos; our dedicated logistics experts and engineers in both the UK and South Africa worked closely with The Aspinall Foundation and Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in order to ensure they had a safe and comfortable journey. It has been an enormously complex but extremely worthwhile logistics effort."

Following the successful release of the rhinos, The Aspinall Foundation is now finalising plans for the release of other endangered animals in one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging reintroductions into the wild yet.

Charles Buchanan, chief executive of Manston, said: "With Kent home to both The Aspinall Foundation and Manston Airport, with our quick turn-around freight handling expertise, we were the obvious partner to assist with the relocation of the three endangered rhinos.

The repatriation of the three black rhinos is an important landmark for The Aspinall Foundation. Damian Aspinall, Chairman of the Foundation commented: "The number of animals that we are releasing will bring a much needed boost to indigenous populations, currently under the real threat of extinction. This will include freeing an entire family of 11 captive bred western lowland gorillas as part of the charity's flagship project in Gabon.

"In addition to the rhinos and gorillas, The Aspinall Foundation's Back To The Wild campaign is also planning to release eight Javan langurs, five Javan gibbons and two African bull elephants into protected areas of the wild.. This unique and historical event in animal husbandry is only made possible by the success of the breeding programmes atHowletts and Port Lympne and the worldwide wilderness protection schemes."