Operation Rhino Drop

What’s the best way to move a rhino? Helicopters, of course.

There are only about 5,000 critically endangered black rhinos in all of Africa. Because they’re not the most social of animals, they need a lot of space to roam around and play their rhino games. This means that, as populations slowly recover, they need to be spread out. In the past, moving a rhino involved tranquilizing it, loading it into a truck, and carting it over bumpy African roads. This was not good for the rhino. Sometimes, rhinos were carried by helicopters in nets, but that led to breathing problems. Today, conservationists are using a new technique—tying the animals by the ankles and flying them by helicopter—to get rhinos from one place to another.

These photos and video are from the latest rhino move, where 19 of the creatures were taken by WWF, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, SANParks, and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on a 1,000 mile journey across South Africa to reside in a new location in the Limpopo province. They’re the latest of 120 rhinos to be relocated by the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project in South Africa. Don’t worry too much about the rhinos: they’re asleep the whole time. And they wake up in a whole new—and improved—world.

Green Renaissance/WWF

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  • Brian

    I can't find high res versions of these photos anywhere. They're amazing shots, can anyone link to originals?

  • Rae French

    I love that these rhinos are being championed this way; however, I am very concerned about this method of transport. Since a rhino typically weighs 1.5 to 2 tons. Is someone looking at the possible damage to their legs by the drag-weight when they are being lifted by the helicopter? Wouldn't it be helpful to place a belt under their body mass to support this weight and remove much of the stress on their feet and legs?

  • Deanne Fletcher

    I completely agree with this comment as I instantly had the same concern. I feel in the long-run, potential ankle damage could result, and what's worse is the thought of one of those ropes snapping. A belt supporting it's body mass would be wise.