Rhino Airlift!

Rhino AirliftSource: Isimangaliso Website, Images supplied by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Visitors to the Eastern Shores section of iSimangaliso were enthralled in early September by the sight of a black rhino dangling in a net below a helicopter. As part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion programme and Park management strategy, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority contributed two black rhino to be relocated to designated reserves according to the project. This initiative ensures that the populations of the endangered species are steadily re-establishing themselves in suitable private as well as provincial and national reserves.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife undertook the capture for iSimangaliso. As there is no vehicle access permitted in the iSimangaliso wilderness area where the rhino were captured, the method of least impact is through use of helicopters for darting and lifting the animals. A “SuperHuey” helicopter was contracted to execute the operation. From the capture site to loading area the sedated rhinos were flown over the ocean, as this was cooler than inland. Beach goers at Cape Vidal were treated to the thrilling sight of the precious cargo being flown above the breaking waves, not far from where a pod of whales had also been spotted.

An eyewitness remarked that he had “heard about iSimangaliso offering the spectacle of black rhino and whales in one afternoon, but never expected such a vivid display!”

He may well have echoed the words of Nelson Mandela’s description of the Park as “‘the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale). ‘

Source: Isimangaliso Website, Images supplied by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

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