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Rhinos Fly to Safety

South African airlift rescues them from poachers

It looks scary, but for the 19 endangered rhinos, it was just a snooze.

The black rhinos were lifted by their ankles over the South African landscape to protect them from poachers.

All in all, World Wildlife Fund’s Black Rhino Expansion Project has moved 120 of the animals to new homes on lands belonging to participating partners to protect them from being hunted. Each of the project partners has agreed to keeping a security system to prevent poachers from attacking the rhinos.

Poachers had killed 274 rhinos by September of this year in South Africa alone, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Hunters are especially interested in the animals’ horns, which is a prized commodity in Asian medicine where it is ground into a powder and used by quack doctors as a supposed treatment for various ailments. There are only 1,1915 left in South Africa and less than 5,000 across the whole continent.

But while about 400 rhinos will have been killed this year, officials say the rate is slowing and progress is being made. “It’s below the percentage increase for the past two to three years,” said Wanda Mkutshulwa of the South African National Parks. “It’s looking bad, but it isn’t as bad as previous years.”

Flying the rhinos to their new homes is easier on them than any other transportation mode. Each two-ton animal gets a shot to puts to sleep for the 10-minute helicopter ride. A doctor awaits their arrival and wakes them up at their new home.