RHINOS IN UK FACING THREAT FROM POACHERS

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Park officials have called on volunteers to help beef up security

Police have stepped up security at two wildlife parks in southeast England in response to a plot to hunt rhinos.

The parks in Kent – Port Lympne and Howletts – have also called for volunteers to help them carry out 24-hour patrols.

There are 20 black rhinos at the parks out of just 45 in the whole of Europe.

Poachers in Africa regularly shoot rhinos to make off with their horns, which are highly valued for alternative medicine in parts of Asia.

“There was anonymous information through Crimestoppers saying there was a possible attack on rhinos,” said Pc Michael Laidlow, wildlife crime officer for Kent Police.

“We’ve spoken to all the owners of rhinos in the South East and they are taking measures to combat it.

“All our wildlife officers are aware of the information and we’re taking steps to increase patrols in the area.”

Rhino horn is worth £65,000 a kg, which makes it more valuable than cocaine, heroin and gold.

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Rhino horn is used in medicine in parts of Asia

Bob O’Connor, managing director of Howletts and Port Lympne, said: “What we’re worried about is criminals taking it to the next level.

“We’ve upped our night-time patrols, we doubled that straight away with our keepers who live on site.

“We have to take this as a credible threat.”

This month the Duke of Cambridge urged a global conference on wildlife protection to do more to tackle the illegal killing of rhinos.

He visited Port Lympne last year to meet and feed rhinos.

Last year, two men were jailed after a failed attempt to steal a rhino head from a museum in Norwich.

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