East Cape’s flying rhino worldwide hit on the web

Gareth Wilson wilsong@avusa.co.za

A VIDEO of 19 flying rhinos transported from an Eastern Cape game reserve to one in Limpopo has gone viral.

The three minute, 28 second clip has had more than 45000 hits on social network site YouTube since it was posted earlier this month.

The rhinos’ move forms part of the World Wildlife Funds’ black rhino range expansion project, a national breeding programme aimed at increasing the endangered black rhino population in South Africa.

All the rhinos come from a reserve that falls under the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and were hand-picked for relocation to Limpopo as part of the breeding programme.

Authorities declined to name the two reserves for fear of poaching.

The relatively new game capture technique saw the rhinos bound by the feet and airlifted upside down by helicopter more than 1500km to another reserve.

 The move was captured on video and within five days of being uploaded to YouTube it had already received 30000 hits.

 The footage was also downloaded by international television networks and aired all over the world.

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency chief executive officer Sybert Liebenberg said the airlifting of rhinos was “much better and less stressful” compared to the older method of transporting them by truck.

“Previously rhinos were either transported by truck over very difficult terrain or carried in a net. This procedure is gentler on the darted rhino and it shortens the time it has to be kept asleep,” he said.

The response to the video showed that people at large were interested in rhinos.

“[The video] is a great way for us to be able to share the miracles that take place in our own backyard every day with the rest of the world.”

WWF project leader Dr Jacques Flamand said the project was only possible due to the “far-sightedness of the Eastern Cape government who were prepared to become partners in the project for the sake of black rhino conservation in South Africa”.

About 120 black rhino have been relocated to various similar breeding programmes to date.

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