The Yorkshire Wildlife Park has confirmed it is set to become home to a number of critically endangered black rhinos, as part of a £3.6m expansion and improvement plan for 2016.
A spokesman for the park says it plans to bring black rhino to their new reserve, which will be dedicated to the animals whose numbers have fallen due to illegal poaching and changing habitat.
The population of black rhinos declined by 96 per cent to less 3,000 from a devastating period of poaching for their horns which are used to make ornamental crowns, cups and ceremonial daggers as well as for herbal medicine.
One sub-species of black rhino was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2011 but a global conservation programme has helped nurse black rhino numbers to around 5,000.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) Foundation will be launching projects to assist conservation effort.
The current African Plains will be completely redeveloped and expanded in a £1.6million project to create a walk through Safari experience featuring a new rhino house and integrated reserves. It is hoped that the new area will open this summer.
Further expansion will see a new camel reserve adjacent to a new feature Timberplay outdoor play area as well as a new café with 120 covers serving drinks and hot snacks.
The current Safari Café, is also being extended with new conservatory and kitchen to keep pace with demand for a high quality café amongst local visitors who can access the café located in the Safari Village free of charge before entering the main Park. Other investment to improve visitor facilities include a new toilet block and the wider paths. Two new outlets in the Safari Village shopping area will also be created.
The work will transform African Plains, already a visitor favourite, with larger interlinked reserves to allow even more animals to range around. These will include Zebras, Ostrich, Eland and Lechwe Antelope , Ankole Cattle and Giraffes.
“The visitor experience will be vastly improved by this major investment,” said YWP CEO John Minion. “We are constantly looking at ways to create the best environment for our animals and for the public to enjoy seeing them close-up.”
The zebras have just been moved temporarily during the building work, which is has just started in recent weeks.
The black rhino, which used to be native across wide areas of Africa, can measure 6ft tall at the shoulder and weigh in at 3,000lbs, roughly the same weight as a family estate car.
The YWP will be only the seventh zoo in the UK to provide a home for the species,
The park, one of the UK’s fastest growing and most innovative attractions, brings visitors almost face to face with some of the world's most rare and beautiful animals. It has a unique collection of animals including Amur Leopards and Tigers, Lions, the country's only three Polar Bears, Squirrel Monkeys, Marmosets and more.