Why airlifting rhinos down critical conservation? A delightfully strange image of an inverted rhinoceros dangling from a helicopter above the savannah of Africa can be seen in the background. The black rhinoceros, on the other hand, takes venturing into new territory very seriously because it is a matter of life and death for them.
Why airlifting rhinos down critical conservation?
The majority of rhino translocations are accomplished with the use of vehicles, although there are some distant places that are inaccessible by road. Therefore, environmentalists started employing helicopters on occasion 10 years ago in order to carry rhinos to and from areas of the landscape that were inaccessible to them. The rhinoceros is either positioned on its side on a stretcher or hanging by its legs from the ceiling upside down.
The upside-down airlift is preferred by conservationists because it is a quicker, simpler, and less expensive alternative to the stretcher option. However, it was not previously known how the rhinos would react to being transported in this manner.
To satisfy its curiosity, the government of Namibia approached the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University and requested that one of its research teams investigate the procedure. The results, which were made public in January, were unexpected. A prominent expert in wildlife and conservation medicine named Robin Radcliffe claims that “we were assuming that the rhinos would fare worse hanging upside down.”We were expected that the rhinos would fare worse hanging upside down.”
Radcliffe and his colleagues came to the conclusion that flying in an inverted position, despite the fact that it may appear to be an unpleasant experience, is actually preferable for the health of rhinos.
The right way up is upside down
The black rhinoceros is one of the two species of rhinoceros that can be found in Africa, and Namibia is home to over a third of the continent’s population of these animals.
Beginning in 2015, a team from Cornell University hung 12 black rhinos, each weighing between 780 and 2,720 pounds, upside down from a crane and positioned them in a side-lying position for the purpose of making a comparison.
After analyzing the rhinos’ indicators of breathing and ventilation while they were inverted, the researchers discovered that the animals had higher quantities of oxygen in their blood.
According to Radcliffe, being in an inverted position causes the spine to extend, which in turn helps to open up the airways. In addition, the researchers discovered that rhinos have a greater “dead space” while they are laying on their sides. This “dead space” refers to the quantity of air in each breath that does not supply oxygen to the body.
A strong anesthetic was used on the rhino, which produces hypoxemia, also known as low oxygen levels in the blood. Because of this, even a slight improvement can make a difference to the rhino’s wellbeing, which is why the difference between the two postures was minimal.
In order to airlift a rhino, two helicopters are required: a smaller one to administer a sedative to the animal and a larger one to take it in. Rhinos can be airlifted in either the sideways or upside-down position. When the rhinos are lifted while lying down, the stretcher adds additional weight, and the process takes longer. According to Radcliffe, it can take a team of six people anywhere from 15 to half an hour to place and secure the rhino on the platform.
In comparison, the process of securing ropes to an animal’s legs and feet can be completed in a matter of minutes.
According to Radcliffe, this method cuts costs (the combined price of two helicopters is around $4,000 per hour) and enhances the animal’s well-being by reducing the amount of time it must be sedated for the procedure. According to Radcliffe, the rhinos are sedated using opioid tranquilizers that are one thousand times more potent than morphine. These tranquilizers pose one of the greatest threats to the animal, regardless of whether it is being transported by road or air.
Conservationists transfer rhinos for a variety of reasons.
The largest populations of black rhinos can be found in Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Savannas, shrublands, and deserts are all common habitats for these animals in Africa. More than 100,000 black rhinos were estimated to have existed in the wild during the 1960s; nevertheless, 30 years of intensive poaching led to the extinction of 98 percent of the species. By the middle of the 1990s, there were only 2,354 black rhinos left in the world.
Since then, meticulous and focused conservation efforts have more than doubled the number of black rhinos, bringing their total population to approximately 5,600.
Jacques Flamand, the leader of the Black Rhino Range Expansion project for the World Wildlife Fund, believes that despite the fact that the population is expanding, the black rhino is still not out of the woods yet.
According to Flamand, rhinos are a “density-dependent” species. This implies that if there are too many of them in one region, their population will decrease unless some of them are moved to another location. According to him, moving rhinos helps to guarantee that there is a diversified gene pool. “We wouldn’t want a black rhino bull to mate with his daughter or mother,” said the researcher, “which in nature would be unlikely due to the emigration of males, but in the gated reserves, is a serious possibility.” “We wouldn’t want a black rhino bull to mate with his daughter or mother.”
Poachers continue to target rhinos for their horns, which are highly sought for use in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as for use in jewelry and artistic carvings. Poachers target rhinos for their horns because of the great demand for them in these markets. In certain instances, rhinos are rescued from areas known for high levels of poaching and relocated to locations where they may be watched and safeguarded from further attacks.
The government of Namibia has established animal conservation projects that relocate rhinos to farms and reserves located in outlying villages. According to Simson, the training of local people as game guards and rhino rangers contributes to the growth of the local economy while also ensuring the safety of the animals. Uri-Khob is the Chief Executive Officer of the Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia.
The number of rhinos killed by poachers in Namibia decreased by forty percent in 2020 compared to 2019; Uri-Khob attributes this decline to an increased level of community involvement, saying, “We have more boots on the ground compared to prior years.”
Are there going to be any more flying rhinos in the future?
According to Radcliffe, at the present time, the vast majority of rhinos are moved via road, while the bulk of airlifts entail treks of approximately 30 miles, with each trip lasting between 20 and 30 minutes.
However, he predicts that airlifting rhinos will become more regular in the future as more rhinos are relocated to rough and inaccessible regions in the future, such as the northern Kunene region of Namibia.
According to Radcliffe, Namibia “had the foresight to recognize that this type of transport will only increase in the future and that we should better understand the safety of the rhinos themselves.” “Namibia had the foresight to recognize that this type of transport will only increase in the future.”
It is his hope that he and his colleagues will be able to undertake a study on longer airborne translocations and investigate the influence that flying has on the activity of the brain and the flow of blood. In addition, he states, “we know they do great short-term, but we would like to watch the rhinos following upside-down relocation, to see how they do long-term.” This is because “we would like to see how they do long-term.”
Radcliffe has high expectations that his research would result in improved safeguards for these critically endangered creatures. As conservationists, “what we can do is make sure that we give the best security and the best management so that rhinos may recover,” says Radcliffe. “We can accomplish this by ensuring that we provide the greatest security and the best management.” As citizens of the world, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of these animals.