Why Rhinos Are Best Transported Upside Down By Helicopters

If you ever find yourself looking, up at the sky above the African Savannah and see the rhinoceros shaking upside down from a helicopter, do not try to panic. While this may seem like a no-brainer, this method of transportation may actually be the safest way to move a black rhinoceros from one location to another. The black rhinoceros, a critically endangered species native to East and South Africa, often roams as part of critical conservation efforts to save the animal from extinction.

Conservationists distribute individuals throughout the habitat to keep gin pools mixed and keep rhinos safe from cannabis hunters. Although trucks are the first option, helicopters often used to transport animals in hard-to-reach areas of the countryside away from human habitation. A common method of air transport involves placing the Rhinoceros on its stretcher. However, a new study in the Journal of Wildlife Disease argues that hanging them upside down with the soles of their feet could be a healthier and less stressful way to do it.

Conservationists at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, studied how 12 black rhinos reacted to anesthetize in two separate locations: hanging or falling from a crane to mimic the effects of aircraft transport the side. 

After calming down with strong opioid and keeping them in one of two conditions for 10 minutes, the team examined some of their vital signs to see how their bodies responded to the shock. All 12 rhinos were both treated. The researchers feared that the reverse rhino suspension would probably worsen the dangerous effects of these opioids. However, they discovered that inverted rhinos pay a slightly better fare than lying rhinos.

Dr Robin Radcliffe, study author and senior lecturer in wildlife and conservation medicine, said in a statement, “Hanging the rhinos upside down has improved ventilation (albeit somewhat) on the glass side rocks.”

“Although it was unexpected and slightly marginal, any growing improvement in physiology helps increase the protection of black rhinos during capture and anesthesia.” It is worth noting that both methods of airlifting can be quite stressful for rhinos. In both terms, all rhinos were proven to be hypoxemic (lack of oxygen in the blood) and hypoxemic (producing too much carbon dioxide in the blood), indicating that the postures affected their lung system. 

For the time being, however, transporting black rhinos by helicopter is an essential part of the survival of their species. “Our next step with this study is to spend time inverting the subject rhinos to simulate helicopter-assisted aircraft transport in the real world,” Dr. Radcliffe added. “Now that we know it’s safe to hang rhinos upside down for a short time, we want to make sure they’re safe in the long run.”