Zambezi, a highly endangered black rhinoceros has died on his flight from a wildlife reserve in the UK, to Tanzania where he was due to be released into the Serengeti.

Photo: Aspinall Foundation

Black rhino’s are critically endangered in the wild, as a result of habit loss and poaching. Rhino horn fetches exhorbitant prices on the black market, and is used in traditional medicines in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries.

Zambezi, a healthy 17 year old male, was born and raised on wildlife reserves owned by the Aspinall foundation. The move to Africa was part of conservation efforts aimed at boosting the dwindling population of wild black rhinos.

A team from the Grumeti Fund Reserve, where he was set to be released, African keepers and a vet with experience in the transportation of large animals were all accompanying Zambezi, during the flight on which he died.

Photo: Aspinall Foundation

“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.”

Said he chairman of the foundation, Damian Aspinall

The foundation defended its decision to translocate the animal, saying the practice of relocating black rhinos born in captivity to Africa is safe and increasingly common.

The Aspinall Foundation has already successfully translocated eight rhino from animal parks in Kent to Africa, where they have helped to boost wild populations. The successful relocations have already resulted in ‘the birth of at least fifteen calves in the last 24 years,’ according to a spokesperson for the foundation. In addition to those moved by the foundation, another 11 black rhinos have been moved from Europe by air to ‘safe havens around the world’ without incident.

Photo: Aspinall Foundation

Black rhinos are smaller than their white counterparts and can be distinguished by their pointed – rather than square – lip.

This unfortunate death comes as a great loss to both the Aspinall foundation and the Black rhino population, along with those who’ve dedicated their lives to saving them!