Published: 08:00, 12 August 2014 |
Updated: 15:59, 12 August 2014
The mystery of a giraffe seen travelling through Kent that left motorists turning their necks in surprise has been solved.
The head of the exotic animal could be seen poking above the tailgate of a multi-coloured trailer making its way through traffic on the M25, M26 and M20 yesterday afternoon.
Now it has emerged the giraffe was being transported to his new home at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, near Hythe, from Devon.
Paignton Zoo said it was a Rothschild's giraffe - classified as an endangered species - called Valentino, who had been born on Valentine's Day in 2012,
It had to be hand reared by keepers following rejection by his mother.
The tall cargo, clearly visible in the super-size HGV, was photographed by a Gravesend man.
He posted on Twitter: "Just seen the most unusual sight on the M25, a #giraffe."
The foreign-registered vehicle was spotted on the anti-clockwise carriageway of the M25 in Kent.
It is believed to have then turned off to the M26 - fuelling earlier suggestions it could have been heading for Dover for a cross-Channel ferry.
Valentino is joining the two female Rothschild giraffe already at the park.
Port Lympne said his arrival signals the start of the reserve's breeding programme with these endangered animals.
Animal director Adrian Harland said: "We are delighted to welcome this lovely male giraffe to the reserve and to be accepted as part of this breeding programme.
"There are so few Rothschild giraffes in the wild that programmes like this one are essential."
Port Lympne has become part of a worldwide breeding programme designed to save the endangered species. It is estimated that fewer than 700 individuals remain in the wild.
Paul Beer, head of the giraffe section, said: "The arrival of Valentino is fantastic news. He's a good looking, healthy male and I'm hoping that the girls take a shine to him."
Visitors to the reserve will be able to see Valentino exploring his new surroundings on The African Experience - 100 acres of land, alive with African animals including black rhino, zebra, wildebeest and ostrich.
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