In a tropical Chinese rainforest, seven savannah-dwelling African rhinos are said to be awaiting release into the wild, raising fears for their welfare in a country with a booming rhino horn trade.
The animals arrived with a blaze of publicity in March at the vast Pu'er National Forest Park in the humid hills of Yunnan province in southwest China, with television images showing cranes lowering the huge beasts into paddocks.
But critics say African rhinos – more than 150 of which have been transported to China in recent years – will struggle to survive in the forest environment, raising doubts about the project's true purpose.
"The rhinos can't be seen by the public, you can't visit them," animal keeper Qian Fuchun told AFP in one of the park's offices.
His employer, the Mekong Group, is turning the 23 800 hectares (58 000 acres) of untouched forest in the park, home to hundreds of species of rare birds and lizards, into a tourist destination.
In South Africa, visitors to game parks are not generally allowed out of their vehicles, while they must be accompanied by an armed ranger on game walks, stay downwind of rhinos and maintain their distance.
But sketches on Qian's office walls showed visitors strolling within yards of grey rhino, seen nestled beneath trees in what was billed as a ‘rhino scenic zone’....
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Via Wildlife Margrit