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Conservationists Plan Largest Rhino Airlift Ever to Save 100 At-Risk Animals from Poaching


Image credit: Albie Venter/ Shutterstock

In an effort to a save rhinos from being currently poached, conservationists have initiated a huge and admirable project, aiming to move at least 100 rhinos from the areas in South Africa where there exits the highest poaching rates to Botswana, the lowest poaching region in the entire Africa. Rhinos Without Borders, the nonprofit organization is the sponsor of this bold move. It is hoped that this mission would not only protect the vulnerable animals from being poached, but also assist to seed new populations in the wild.

As Beverly Joubert, the conservationist and filmmaker said, this move should be regarded as an emergency intervention. It is strongly believed that without such efforts, rhinos would become extinct in particular areas in Africa.

Poaching is now posing a severe threat to rhinos, because the number of black rhino has been greatly decreased from nearly 16,000 down 4,000 since 1970, Thanks to current conservation efforts, the population of white rhino numbers has been going up after being to extinction in 1970, however only 20,000 remain at the moment.

South Africa is now a hotspot for poaching, because around eighty-percent of the world’s rhinos live in the country. Just take last year for example; more than 1,200 rhinos were killed by brutal poachers in South Africa, which means one had been killed every eight hours roughly. Starting from 2008, the incidences of poaching in the country have been alarmingly increased, resulting mainly from the rising demand for rhino horns in Asian countries, particularly in China and Vietnam. Although it is not remarkably evident that there is any medicinal value in ground-up rhino horns, but they are sold well on the black market, because it is assumed that they are effective in the various kinds of ailments, such as cancer and hangovers.

As conservationist Derek Joubert said, such thing was useless, just like smoke and mirrors, something you did in chewing your fingernails.

To aspire for the new change, the Jouberts initiated Rhinos Without Borders last year. Not long ago, they started their ambitious relocation project, by which, 10 rhinos from reserves in South Africa would be moved to a protected area in the country. At present, such rhinos are under close watch in regard to their health problems, thus receiving necessary treatment. When every goes well, they would be put on plane and flown to an undisclosed area in Botswana in the coming months.

As the further move in the plan, 25 will be relocated this year, and another 65 would be followed in 2016. At$45,000 a pop, this project seems quite expensive. However, the couple has now succeeded in raising $280,000, mainly donated from crowd funding. Here there is also some risks, because it is necessary to keep the animals sedated before their movement, which could have nearly a 2-5% mortality rate. Although it is expensive to fly rhinos, it is worth doing; for it would take a shorter period to sedate the animals for transport by air than doing it by land.

The idea is focused on selection of rhinos now living in crowded areas, where any more rhinos could be supported, because, on one hand, such densely populated areas are supposed to be attractive to poachers, on the other overcrowding could cut down the birth rate. It is hoped that moving the animals to parks in Botswana would double the rhino population in this country in a couple of years to come.

Different from South Africa, where some communities are supportive to poaching because of some profits, Botswana is the country with a zero-tolerance policy in terms of poaching. The government has also invited the military to be involved in defense against poachers and the military could legally shoot and kill the poachers if they are caught.

Source: Rhinos Without BordersNational Geographic and CBS News