June 03, 2007

Virgin begins Kenya flights

British entrepreneur Richard Branson landed in Kenya on Saturday on Virgin Airlines' maiden flight to the east African country and vowed to help protect some 2,000 elephants threatened by encroachment.

The Virgin chairman said the endangered beasts were hemmed in by small farms mushrooming around Mount Kenya, stifling centuries-old migratory routes and sending some crashing across homesteads, threatening lives and damaging crops.

He said the airline would fund the construction of a safe passage to let about 2,000 elephants follow their natural path north of the snow-capped mountain.

"The African elephant has roamed across the continent from South Africa to the Mediterranean coast but its population is under serious threat," Branson told reporters gathered in a tent by the runway at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

"We can create a vital lifeline for the entire animal and human population in the region."

Kenya once boasted more than 100,000 elephants, but that number has plummeted by more than two-thirds in recent years, activists say. Human encroachment is blamed for most of that.

Read the rest of this article's at: tvnz.co.nz

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