Anyone For Black Rhino… Free
More Black Rhino on the Move
This week in the news. This time it’s for Chief’s Island in the Okavango Delta of Northern Botswana. Some, in fact 8 – and I hope happy – rhino have been delivered to the Island for safe keeping as it were. A gift from Zimbabwe through The Malilangwe Trust in Southern Zimbabwe using Hercules C130 military transport aircraft from Botswana. It is a gift of sorts, although it is also a program of protection. In that there will be more black rhino in different parts of the world. And one day they may be able to donate back to Zimbabwe. This helps to strengthen the population by protection and diversification. A further advantage to the rhino is by spreading them out, they are made more difficult for the poachers to hunt down. This act is a clear indication to all the world that everyone is involved in the rhino protection program, starting with the conservationists and owners themselves.
This method of conservation, looking after the animals, by making them available to others was done back in the 1960’s. I remembered this was when the late Dr Ian Player of Natal Parks Board was involved with the transportation of endangered white rhino to Timbavati in 1968.
The planning was more likened to a major military campaign. How could we capture them? With what will we calm them? What kind of transport can we use? Then once they are delivered it was, could we revive them? You can imagine that all the attention was to keep all the rhino alive, on capture, transport and delivery. Having never attempted such a program on so large and dangerous an animal, since Noah’s Ark, the world’s spotlight was on South Africa and Natal in particular. Speculations ran rife in the press and minds of the people. Like – “these rhino were doomed” – you can’t move rhino by truck, they’ll die of fright. And with what will you immobilize them, dear Player, dear Player, with what? With a crossbow dear public, dear public, with a crossbow. The limerick can stop here and I will tell you, that, that was exactly how it was done.
Dr Ian Player had fairly well perfected the crossbow in his Operation Rhino program saving the white rhino population of Natal. A syringe not much different than is still used today, was mounted on the crossbow where the arrow would usually be laid with a shaft and flight feathers. Seeing that darting was not in common practice in those days, it was needed, to establish the kind of drug to use. Establishing how to make a needle that did not fall out, yet had enough force to inject the right dose into the animal in the first place.
Onderstepoort and every known veterinary service, was employed in coming up with the solution – pardon the pun – needed. Then came testing and so on and in the end they got it right. The rhino were moved to Timbavati. First four were moved and this was repeated over the next 5 years until twenty six were relocated to Timbavati. It was a very new thing to transport game around the world. Well live game at any rate.
I find it interesting that my brother, Johan Mostert, who later became a game ranger in Klaserie – although the family was established in Timbavati at the time – was called upon to assist. Now, 47 years later, our second eldest son Joshua, a director of AWMC in Zimbabwe, was called upon by The Malilangwe Trust as a consultant in the moving of these latest rhino to Botswana. AWMC established by Mike Le Grange, has been a dedicated group of people in Zimbabwe, determined to see Africa’s animals well and looked after. This team does good work in capture, relocation and local veterinary needs. The AWMC team is also expertly trained and equipped to move and relocate any kind of animal in Africa. This they do at a drop of a hat, in places like Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. Involving elephant, rhino, buffalo and everything else in-between, – hang on, I’m missing something, aah hippo, well – at this writing they are still perfecting a drug for them. Keep in touch, we will let you know as soon as it happens.