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Rhinos get grumpy when crated and moved

After the immobilisation and fitting of the working collars we waited a few days for the rhino to settle down. Tristan Dickerson, our internal satellite specialist, who was kindly loaned to us by &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve to make sure that all the collars were working as they should be, flew up to Botswana and was therefore on site to preside over the release.

Rhino are traditionally very reluctant to leave a boma, especially through a gate that hasn’t been open before, and my experience has been that they run as soon as they get halfway through the gate. That was the last thing that we wanted. Our plan was to try to keep the group together and to release them slowly, let them walk out and stay together. This meant that we completely removed one side of the feeding boma and fed the rhino outside the old fence.

It was really a cunning plan, that I was sure would work really well.

You all know by now that I have huge experience with these types of releases, so I was very firm in my predictions.

Those predictions, as told to Jason King, &Beyond Director in Botswana, were:
• If the rhino left through a gate they would run and separate
• The water levels were high enough to contain the rhino on the island where we released them, as they never cross deep water
• If they walk out slowly they will probably stay together

What actually happened was:
• The rhino did walk out calmly, four in a group going first, followed by the last two
• The rhino did not even hesitate at the water and crossed relativley deep water
• The rhino walked out together and still split up into three pairs
• All the rhino crossed water to get off the island that they were released on

This has clearly given my ego and my standing in Jason’s eyes a real knock. I just wish the rhino had read the e-mails I sent them pre release so that they knew what was expected of them!

It just goes to show that one of the real pleasures of working with wildlife is the constant surprises that you have to deal with.

Much more about conservation by this author on his own blog. The relocation of the six rhino was arranged by leading conservation charity &Beyond thanks to sponsorship from Motorite. Support the fight to protect the rhino by buying a sponsorship bracelet

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