Measuring the rhino horn Rhinos Without Borders
© Beverly Joubert

It takes a lot to save a rhino

Watch these emotive videos and you’ll agree that it takes a lot to save a rhino…
by 19th January 2018

Adventure is, by definition, an unusual and exciting or daring experience. Far from the humdrum and monotony of our daily routines, adventure is something new, exhilarating and out of the ordinary that feeds and invigorates the soul. For some, it’s leaping carefree out of a plane or plunging into an ominous underwater cage surrounded by sharks. For others, it’s sampling new foods and mingling with different cultures. That’s the beauty of adventure – it means something entirely different to every person. To us, adventure is, quite simply, not knowing what comes next.

On the one hand, as a luxury experiential travel company, we have the privilege of creating extraordinary travel adventures and witnessing first-hand the giddy excitement and sheer delight when our guests experience all of the unexpected surprises and unforeseen twists and turns on an &Beyond journey. On the other hand, as a conservation company, we are faced with an entirely different kind of adventure, and that is not knowing what comes next for the planet’s many endangered species.

With this in mind, something that has remained resolute at the core of everything we do is a determined focus on restoring hope for species on the brink of extinction. If wildlife lovers and conservationists around the world continue to join forces and do whatever we can to help these animals in need, then we can turn this uncertain adventure into one with a lasting and happy outcome.

One such story of hope is Rhinos Without Borders, our joint initiative with Great Plains Conservation, which aims to move 100 rhino from the poaching hotspots of South Africa to relative safety in neighbouring Botswana. We are eternally grateful to everyone that has supported this project over the years and for every donation, big or small, which has helped us to (almost) reach our goal.

Towards the end of last year, we officially announced the successful translocation and safe release of an additional 40 rhino to Botswana. This latest (not to mention largest we have undertaken to-date) translocation means that Rhinos Without Borders has now moved a total of 77 endangered rhino and we are within very close reach of our target. Read the full story here.

Translocating rhino is no mean feat and it’s certainly an adventure in itself for our hard-working and globally-renowned conservation team, game capture experts and veterinarians. Here are 14 short videos (shot by our friend and partner, Beverly Joubert) that shed light on just how much it takes to save a rhino. If these videos move you and you would like to get involved in the Rhinos Without Border story of hope, please click here.

1. The practised hands of Dr Dave Cooper prepare a dart with just the right amount of M99, the drug used to sedate this young rhino. Together with her mother, she has been placed in a boma waiting to be translocated from a poaching hotspot in South Africa to relative safety in Botswana. She has a long way to go, but this journey has been practised and perfected by the world’s leading experts.

2. The mother has been darted and is being prepared to travel, together with her calf, to Botswana. As the drug takes effect, a highly efficient and practised team moves quickly to cover her eyes. This will not only protect them from dust or grit but will also help her to remain calm as she is loaded into a container for transport.

3. The mother has been immobilised and will soon be loaded into a specially-designed crate with her calf for their trip to Botswana. While she is sedated, blood is drawn and quickly tested to ensure she is in the best health and ready for her journey. Her DNA will later be added to a global database. This is an arduous process, but in the face of relentless rhino poaching, it is necessary if we are to save this species.

4. How do you move an animal that weighs 1.5 tons? The easiest and least traumatic way is to get her to walk and move herself. The drugs keep her semi-sedated, and with the help of the experienced Rhinos Without Borders team, she can carry herself, with deliberate and carefully-placed steps towards her specially-made container. This is the beginning of an incredible journey that will take her and her calf to a safe new home.

5. This rhino has had the tip of her horn removed so that she doesn’t harm herself during the journey.

6. A historic moment as a C-130 Hercules plane comes in to land. The Botswana government and military volunteered this aircraft to transport the rhino to their new destination. An operation of this magnitude can only succeed when different people, organisations and donors all work together towards the same goal: moving 100 rhino to safety and forming a strong breeding nucleus.

7. After a successful flight to Botswana, the rhino and her calf are offloaded. Each is in a crate specifically designed/sized for them. The walls support and contain them so that they are not able to move around and injure themselves, but there is ample room for them to sit or lie down. The duo has come a long way and are still subdued with the necessary drugs. They have been monitored non-stop and are doing exceptionally well, however they still have a way to go.

8. Following the flight and transit by truck, they have one more epic journey to make. For this journey the rhino need to be fully sedated, not just immobilised as they have been up until now. She may be half asleep, but she still weighs well over a ton and the Rhinos Without Borders team needs to move with speed and efficiency.

9. This is precious cargo. We’re not going to release these rhinos back into the wild without keeping a very careful eye on them. Rhinos Without Borders has invested in the best possible technology and has fitted satellite trackers onto each rhino so that they can be tracked and located daily.

10. Mother and calf are nearly at the end of their arduous journey to safety. Their new home is situated on the other side of a deep water channel and the quickest, least invasive and least traumatic way of moving them is by helicopter. Each rhino is gently lifted, supported by the ankles using a technique that has been developed and perfected over the years and proven to be the quickest and most comfortable way of transporting rhinos over short distances.

11. It is a deeply emotional, rather shocking sight to behold. Rhinos shouldn’t fly, they should have their great mass firmly grounded as they graze or browse, but given the exponential demand for rhino horn, this journey is critical. For the Rhinos Without Borders team, seeing a flying rhino ending her long trek to safety is the jubilant culmination of years of hard work, determination, heartbreak and elation. Welcome to your new home where we will do everything possible to keep you safe.

12. The mother and calf are at the end of their epic journey to safety. They have travelled by truck, plane and helicopter to reach this wilderness and they are quickly checked by the Rhinos Without Borders experts to ensure everything is ok following their helicopter lift. Everything is as it should be and the pair is given the antidote that will wake them up in their new home.

13. The antidote is administered and the Rhinos Without Borders team quickly remove the blindfolds and retreat into the distance. It doesn’t take long for the rhinos to wake up. They’re calm, thanks in part to the effects of the antidote, which limits stress, helping them to adapt to their new environment in the best way possible. What an incredible feeling, after all the hard work and lack of sleep, to witness these animals taking their first steps in a safer land. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of thousands of people around the world who have helped to give this species a future.

14. It didn’t take long for the rhinos to relax in their new home. In fact, it was almost immediate. Once the drugs had worn off and the mother was satisfied that her calf was by her side, they moved slowly into their new habitat and began grazing. The work is not over yet; we still have 23 more rhino to translocate and any donation, big or small, will go a long way towards securing a future for this endangered species.

Image & videos © Beverly Joubert.

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