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Rhino Translocation: A colossal venture

In June, not one, but nine white rhinos were translocated by the N/a’an ku sê team. Their point of origin? The Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê. N/a’an ku sê veterinarian, Dr. Maaike de Schepper, backed by a ground team headed by Marlice van Vuuren, proved their prowess during the translocation process.

Day one and the teams head to the Zannier Reserve. Dr. Maaike de Schepper expertly darts the selected rhinos from a helicopter, identifying the chosen ones from the air. Of course, the process of sedation and movement into the transport crates is individually performed for each rhino. Once a rhino is darted, the ground team rushes in, cutting off the magnificent creature’s senses by applying a blindfold and muffling the ears. The semi-conscious animal is then carefully guided into the waiting transport crate. Four rhinos are translocated on the first day, the team transporting them through the night to a N/a'an ku sê-managed reserve. Here, during the hours of darkness, the horned titans are released, claiming freedom once again.

Day two soon dawns and the adventure of de-horning awaits. For the increased safety of the animal, removing its horn lowers the chances of poaching. This in itself requires another dedicated mission. And the team is at the ready. Once again, the identified rhino is darted from the air, the ground team rushing in as soon as the darting process is complete. The horn is removed as quickly as possible, with the rhino soon strutting back to its life on the reserve.

Day three and the final day of the colossal venture has arrived. Five rhinos need to be translocated and to yet another N/a'an ku sê-managed reserve. The only hitch? A calf gets separated from its mum during the darting process, but savvy helicopter work soon reunites the duo. Without further mishap, all five rhinos are safely ushered into transport crates and whisked to their new lives. Mission accomplished.

But why translocation? It’s all about genetic diversity. Genetic health is, after all, paramount. So, mixing and matching rhino DNA is a definite must. Reserve management and available grazing is another factor. And protection comes into play too. The reserves now home to these incredible animals all boast the power of formidable anti-poaching units.

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