Suspending rhinos upside down may help improve their well-being: study

Cheryl Santa Maria
·2 min read
Suspending rhinos upside down may help improve their well-being: study
Suspending rhinos upside down may help improve their well-being: study
Suspending rhinos upside down may help improve their well-being: study

Look up on any given day in the savannahs of Namibia, Kenya, and South Africa, and you might see an upside-down, sedated and blindfolded black rhino flying across the sky, suspended from a helicopter.

While most black rhinos are transported out of poaching hot spots and brought to protected spaces by a van, conservationists starting airlifting some rhinos in hard-to-reach areas about a decade ago. To date, hundreds have been rescued in this manner, either placed in a stretcher on its side or suspended upside down.

The upside-down airlift is the preferred choice as it's faster and less expensive, CNN reports, and now, a study has confirmed it's also the safest one.

Researchers said the results were 'surprising': "We were anticipating that the rhinos would fare worse hanging upside down," Robin Radcliffe, a senior lecturer in wildlife and conservation medicine, told CNN.

Beginning in 2015, researchers suspended 12 black rhinos weighing between 870 and 1233 kg upside down from a crane, then placing them in a side-lying position. Biomarkers like respiration and ventilation were measured. It was found blood oxygen levels were higher when upside down because the position stretches the spine, opening up the airways.

While the difference between the two positions was small, researchers say even tiny improvements can positively impact the rhino's welfare.

RHINO CONSERVATION

During the 1960s, more than 100,000 black rhinos lived in the African Savannah but decades of poaching nearly wiped out the species, with about 2,400 left in the wild by 1992.

Today, that number has rebounded to about 5,000, thanks to aggressive conservation efforts in Namibia, Kenya, and South Africa, three countries that hold roughly 87 per cent of the world's black rhino population, according to the WWF.