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Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is to fly three Kent-born gorillas to Africa.
The baby apes are to start a new life in Gabon as part of The Aspinall Foundation’s conservation work.
Bred in captivity at the Aspinall’s Wild Animal Parks - Port Lympne near Hythe and Howletts near Canterbury, the gorillas, Oudiki, Kouki and Tiya, will embark on their journey next month.
At just five months old, Tiya is the youngest in the group. She was hand-raised as her mother was unable to feed her.
Oudiki celebrates his second birthday in July. He was born at Howletts but again needed to hand-reared as his mother couldn’t feed him.
The last of the group is Kouki, who will be two in November. She was removed from her family group of gorillas at two months old to join an orphan gorilla.
This is the second group of captive-born western lowland gorillas that The Aspinall Foundation has taken to Gabon.
In July 2003, seven gorillas were taken to the charity’s reintroduction programme. Six of those survived and are doing well.
Overseas director Amos Courage said: “They are still thriving and surviving.”
Tiya, Kouki and Oudiki will not join this group but will form a new group along with native rescued gorillas.
Accompanying them on the trip will be the wildlife parks’ resident veterinary surgeon Jane Hopper, who along with keepers has been preparing the baby apes for the trip.
Jane, who grew up in Canterbury herself, said: “They need to have a course of injections and they will be on a course of malaria tablets.”
See Kent Online next month for more on this story.
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