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Why airlifting rhinos upside down is critical to conservation

March 18, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 16.9%. 1 min read.

For the past decade, conservationists have been airlifting black rhinos upside down. It's faster, cheaper and easier than other airlifting methods, but what is it like for the rhinos? A recent study has revealed surprising answers.

"We were anticipating that the rhinos would fare worse hanging upside down," says Robin Radcliffe, a senior lecturer in wildlife and conservation medicine.

Instead, Radcliffe and his team found that although it looks like an uncomfortable experience, upside-down flying is the better option for rhino health.

Starting in 2015, the Cornell team suspended 12 black rhinos -- each weighing between 1,770 and 2,720 pounds -- upside down from a crane, and placed them in a side-lying position for comparison.

Whether on their side or upside down, airlifting a rhino requires two helicopters: a small one to dart the rhino with a sedative, and a larger one to carry the animal.

The rhinos are sedated with opioid tranquilizers that are 1,000 times stronger than morphine and pose one of the biggest risks to the animal, whether it's being moved by road or air, says Radcliffe.

Additionally, "we know they do fine short-term, but we would like to monitor the rhinos after upside-down translocation, to see how they do long-term," he says.

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