Africa’s rhinos are in the throes of a poaching onslaught,they are being hunted and hounded for their horns. This scourge has led to concerted efforts across South Africa to save, preserve and grow the critically endangered rhino population. In November last year, Green Renaissance filmed the translocation of the seventh black rhino population established by the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, after an epic 1500 kilometre trip across the country. In this translocation, 19 of the critically endangered animals were moved from the Eastern Cape to a new location in the Limpopo province.
A relatively new capture technique was used to airlift some of the rhinos out of difficult or inaccessible areas by helicopter. This entailed suspending the sleeping rhino by the ankles for a short trip through the air to awaiting vehicles. The difficult translocation involved passionate conservationists, veterinarians, WWF, SANParks and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
“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,” explains WWF’s project leader Dr Jacques Flamand (pictured below).
“Another advantage is that rhinos can be more easily removed from dangerous situations, for example if they have fallen asleep in a donga or other difficult terrain after being darted. The helicopter translocations usually take less than ten minutes, and the animals suffer no ill effect. All of the veterinarians working on the translocation agreed that this was now the method of choice for the well-being of the animals.”
Dr Jacques Flamand of WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has just administered the antidote to wake up a black rhino which has just been released on to a new home after an epic 1500 kilometre journey.
Security of rhinos is a major concern given the current poaching onslaught, and project partners receiving rhinos on their land are only chosen if their security systems are of a high standard.
“Translocating rhinos always involves risk, but we cannot keep all our eggs in one basket. It is essential to manage black rhino populations for maximum growth as it is still a critically endangered species and this is what the project does by creating large new populations which we hope will breed quickly,” concludes Dr Flamand.
The WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project aims to increase the range and numbers of black rhino in South Africa and has created seven significant black rhino populations in eight years. Close to 120 black rhino have now been translocated.
Black rhino being transported by helicopter to an awaiting land vehicle. The helicopter trip lasts less than 10 minutes and enables a darted rhino to be removed from difficult and dangerous terrain. The sleeping animals suffer no ill effect.