White Rhino grazing at Monate Lodge

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rhino Air: Hold onto your horns! Dangling miles above the earth, the amazing flight which saved a herd of rhinos from certain death

Dangling from cords tied to their ankles, 19 hulking animals were transported out of the South African hills inaccessible by road in the country's Eastern Cape.
And these incredible images show exactly how conservationists used a military helicopter to carry the herd of 1,400-kilo rhinos to their new home, away from poachers.
Conservationists put the endangered beasts to sleep and hoisted one at a time for the 15-mile flight.
The big move was orchestrated by World Wildlife Fund experts, who yesterday drove the rhinos 1,000 miles to fresh breeding ground in the northern Limpopo province.
Flying high: Each animal, which weighs at least two tons, spent 20 minutes in the air being flown to safety
Today photographer Michael Raimondo, who captured the spectacular scenes, said each animal spent around 20 minutes in the air.
He said: 'It was quite incredible. These things are so heavy - some of them weigh a couple of tons.
'The main aim was to ensure the rhinos were moved in a way that would not distress them, so they were darted and put to sleep before being lifted.'
Mr Raimondo, director of environmental body Green Renaissance, was among a team of 25 who helped with the painstaking process.
He added: 'We couldn't get trucks to them as they were in a very remote area, so military choppers were needed to bring them out.
'The helicopters had been tried and tested during exercises so we knew they could carry incredibly heavy things.'
Hold onto your horns: Even though the rhinos were fast asleep, they were blindfolded to stop them becoming frightened if they suddenly woke up
Heavy load: The rhino's were darted and put to sleep before being airlifted to a secret location in a bid to increase the number across South Africa
The mammoth cargo included males that were nearly four metres long, and weighed up to 2,000 kilos.
Black rhinos are under threat across Africa, where poachers in safari parks and private reserves kill and maim the beasts for their horns.
New figures published today by the WWF revealed that more of the vulnerable animals have been slaughtered in the first 10 months of this year than during the whole of 2010.
Official statistics show that that 341 rhinos have been lost to poaching this year in South Africa, compared to 333 last year.
This week's herd was the seventh to be transferred to new bushland by WWF, which is attempting to increase the population.
The precise locations were not revealed in an effort to prevent criminals from targeting the animals.
WWF project leader Jacques Flamand helped revive the animals after each helicopter journey, which took place around half a mile above the ground.
He said: 'The operation was difficult due to the number of animals and the long distances involved.
Flight of the Rhino: Black rhinos are under threat across Africa, flying the animals out of danger was the only option for conservationists as their habitat was inaccessible by road
What just happened? One of the rhino's is woken up in his new home by Conservationist Jacques Flamand after taking a 15 miles flight upside down
'But wildlife veterinarians, conservation managers and capture teams worked cooperatively to ensure the success of the translocation. We were united in a common cause.'
The project was the first of its kind in South Africa, but previous trips with elephants in Malawi demonstrated how humane the procedure could be.
Dr Flamand added: 'Previously rhinos were either transported by lorry over very difficult tracks, or airlifted in a net.
'This new procedure is gentler on the darted rhino because it shortens the time it has to be kept asleep with drugs, the respiration is not as compromised as it can be in a net and it avoids the need for travel in a crate over terrible tracks.'
The WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has been running in South Africa for eight years, and seen 120 animals moved.
The operation is one of many conservation attempts to curb the death of the animals, which are classified as 'critically endangered'.
The increase in illegal hunting has been fuelled by a demand for horn in the Far East, where it is ground up and used in traditional medicines.
Earlier this year experts said the substance was being sold on the black market for around POUNDS 35,000 a kilogram - making it more valuable by weight than gold.
A world-first scheme launched in June saw a DNA database of rhino horns set up to crack criminal networks that kill and torture the beasts.
Black and white rhinos are popular sights in South Africa's array of game parks, which are visited by millions of tourists every year, many from Britain

No comments:

Post a Comment