A herd of rhinos was relocated to its new home by a helicopter during a WWF rescue operation which saved them from death. Dangling from cords tied to their ankles, 19 black rhinos were transported out of the South African hills inaccessible by road in the country’s Eastern Cape.
The 1,400-kilo rhinos spent 20 minutes in the air and were then driven a further 1,000 miles to fresh breeding ground in the northern Limpopo province, away from poachers.
Michael Raimondo, who captured the spectacular scenes, said: “The main aim was to ensure the rhinos were moved in a way that would not distress them, so they were darted and put to sleep before being lifted.”
Mr Raimondo, director of environmental body Green Renaissance, was among a team of 25 who helped with the painstaking process.
He added: “We couldn’t get trucks to them as they were in a very remote area, so military choppers were needed to bring them out.
“The helicopters had been tried and tested during exercises so we knew they could carry incredibly heavy things.”
The mammoth cargo included males that were nearly four meters long, and weighed up to 2,000 kilos.
Black rhinos are under threat across Africa, where poachers in safari parks and private reserves kill and maim the beasts for their horns.
New figures published today by the WWF revealed that more of the vulnerable animals have been slaughtered in the first 10 months of this year than during the whole of 2010.
Official statistics show that that 341 rhinos have been lost to poaching this year in South Africa, compared to 333 last year.
This week’s herd was the seventh to be transferred to new bushland by WWF, which is attempting to increase the population.
The precise locations were not revealed in an effort to prevent criminals from targeting the animals.