Rhino Conservation Botswana, May 13 2017
Two black rhinos wandered off on their own adventure. To keep these precious animals safe, RCB (rhino Conservation Botswana) scrambled a rescue team to capture and return them to the Moremi Game Reserve, where they can be kept under the monitors’ watchful eyes.
With the two rhinos safely captured and munching on lucerne in an enclosure or ‘boma’, Map Ives, director of RCB, tracks down a suitable aircraft to return the pair to safety. Thanks to the support of the Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), and the Commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) air-wing, the majestic Lockheed C-130 aircraft is placed at our disposal.
As the first rays of light warm the skies, our rhinos are already in crates, sleeping, for their journey to Moremi Game Reserve
The next day the team is up before the sun, at 3am, to immobilise the rhinos and load them into crates by the light of our headlamps. Vets Rob Jackson and Caron Botes oversee the operation, while we make sure our adventurous mother rhino is fitted with a transmitter, so that we can follow her movements closely once she’s released.
The rhino crates are then placed on the back of the 10-tonne trucks, kindly supplied by the DWNP, and we start the journey to Maun airport under heavy armed escort.
It takes us two hot hours to load the rhino crates into the aircraft. Then we’re finally ready to fly our wandering rhinos back to the Moremi Game Reserve, where they belong.
The rhino crates have to be gently loaded into the aircraft. They are very heavy so it’s all hands to the pumps!
As soon as we touch down, our highly trained team sets about off-loading the rhinos and moving them onto a truck for the short journey to their next stop. The release bomas have been meticulously prepared by George, one of the local rhino monitoring officers. Once installed, the rhinos are offered water and lucerne – their favourite food – and began to eat with gusto.
By the time the rhinos are bedded down and the crates are re-loaded onto the aircraft, it’s late. The sun has almost set and the mighty aircraft lifts from the gravel strip.
The next day, both rhinos are tucking in to the freshly cut browse we’ve hung on the boma walls. We try feeding them slivers of sausage fruit, which they almost take from our hands – another sign that they’re not stressed. The rhinos will stay in the care of George, Kyle and Mike Fitt, who are among the best rhino boma managers in the business, until they are ready for release.
Our young rhino has a bright future ahead of her, living wild and free in beautiful Botswana. Photo courtesy of Michael Fitt.
A few days later, as evening falls, the door of the boma is opened and the rhinos stroll out, back into the wild, as if they have never been gone. We will keep an even closer eye on this pair from now on!