It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, if you’re in South Africa, it’s probably a rhino.
In the continuous effort to save rhinoceros from poachers, conservationists in South Africa are now airlifting rhinos to safer areas.
The process requires the animals to be drugged first so they don’t react as activists tie their ankles together and hook it to a helicopter that flies them to a safer area away from poachers.
While it may seem pretty awful to be flown by your ankles between 500 and 1000 feet in the air, conservationists from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife assure that’s the best way to protect rhinos from being killed.
Airlifting rhinos has been the adopted method for saving them since the World Wildlife Fund’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project went into effect in 2003. Emma Gatland, a photographer for The National Geographic, was present at the latest rhino transport in Kwa Zulu Natal and also stood by the method.
“There aren’t many people who get to witness a rhino lift,” said Gatland in The National Geographic. “It’s a new procedure, which is gentle on the rhino as it shortens the time the animal is kept drugged. The rhinos are airlifted using an old Vietnam Huey [helicopter], which in itself is an adventure.”
With poachers killing over 1,000 rhinos last year alone for their ivory horns, the endangered creatures don’t have much of a choice anymore for survival unless they’re moved away from their killers. Maybe the adventure isn’t so bad after all.
Photo Credit: Emma Gatland