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Friday, August 15, 2014

Saving the Black Rhino - by Helicopter

By Andrew Drwiega, International Bureau Chief

South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, announced in August that the World Wildlife Fund - South Africa (WWF-SA) was preparing for its 10th annual translocation of breeding population of black rhinos to more secure areas to help safeguard and hopefully increase numbers.

Helicopters have been used in previous years by WWF-SA to assist in the capture and relocation of black rhinos to new habitats such as that around Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. This is central to the organization’s successful Black Rhino Range Expansion Program (BRREP) program which has centered on stabilizing the breeding population in the Kruger National Park.

As part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, the rhinos are located then tranquillized, an operation that involves helicopters, which are then used to lift the rhinos safely out of often difficult and inaccessible terrain where they have gone down. The process is actually less traumatic than it looks. The average flight is only around 10 minutes long and the rhino remains tranquillized throughout the flight.

 

A Black Dog Aviation Super Huey lifting a black rhino to a new home in 2011; the program is set to begin again soon. Photo courtesy WWF-Canon/ Green Renaissance 

According to WWF-SA, the task of carrying out this unusual cargo transfer has been performed by Bird Dog Aviation, with its Super Huey piloted by Tosh Ross playing a major role.

Minister Molewa said that South Africa’s positive measures to protect the rhino from extinction resulted in the latest census revelations that the Kruger National Park now has between 8,400 and 9,600 white rhinos. WWF-SA states that the strategic translocation of rhinos to establish breeding populations has been a key element in the conservation process.

However, poaching remains virulent with the Asian species particularly in danger of extinction. Dr. Jo Shaw, rhino program manager at WWF-SA reemphasized the critical need to curb demand for rhino products: “There remains a need to burst the bubble of conspicuous consumption of rhino horn in Asia and halt this unsustainable explosion in demand.”

Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-SA: “We should be under no illusion that despite our utmost efforts under the currently overwhelming illegal demand for rhino horn, the best we can do is to play for a draw in Africa. Ultimately, the battle for the future of African rhinos can only be won in Asia.”

Related: Humanitarian News

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