This man is airlifting rhinos to Australia to protect them from poachers

White rhino
CC BY 2.0 ryan harvey/Wikimedia Commons

More rhinos in Africa are being killed than are being born, prompting real estate agent Ray Dearlove to start moving them away harm.

With a steady stream of news about animals in Africa being decimated by poachers and the seeming impossibility of putting an end to it, the natural reaction for many of us goes something like this: I wish I could go in and swoop them up and take them someplace safe!

For one man in Australia, that wish is becoming a reality as the first six of 80 rhinos will go into quarantine in Johannesburg, South Africa in May as they begin their journey to a “safe house” in the Australian outback.

More than 5,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2010, and despite efforts to put a dent in poaching, it's getting worse as time progresses. At this rate, rhinos will be extinct within the next 10 years. With a single rhino horn fetching up to $500,000 on the market in China and Vietnam where it is used for traditional medicine, poachers are financially motivated to outsmart anti-poaching efforts.

Conservationist have done just about everything they can think of to save them – they’ve fenced them in, sent out squadrons of anti-poaching rangers, and even cut off rhino horns to make them less appealing, reports Smithsonian:

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the kill rate of rhinos has exceeded the birth rate for the first time. In 2007, 13 rhinos were killed in southern Africa. In 2013 that number rose to 1,004, 1,200 in 2014 and in 2015 high horn prices pushed the number of poached rhinos to around 1,500 animals

So when push comes to shove, If you can't get the poachers away from animals, then get the animals away from the poachers.

Which is where Ray Dearlove comes in. The appropriately named Dearlove is a South African transplant living in Australia and the founder of The Australian Rhino Project. The goal of the Dearlove and the group is nothing short of saving the species should the need arise:

We have the primary objective to establish a breeding herd of rhinoceros in Australia – a place of relative safety and comparable ecology to their native home – as an “insurance population” in the event of extinction of the species in South Africa.

“There is no safe place in Africa for rhinos today,” Dearlove tells the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC). “They’ve become extinct pretty much from the top down to South Africa where probably 85 to 90 percent of the white and black southern rhinos that are left in the world.”

Over the last three years Dearlove has been wrestling full time with red tape and skeptics – understandable as we're talking airlifting two-ton animals to another continent, with a price tag of $75,000 per rhino. But he now has the blessings of both South African and Australian governments, as well as sponsors and environmentalists like Jane Goodall.

After the first six that are slated for Johannesburg finish their quarantine time there, they will head over to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia for another two months of quarantine before heading to their final destination outside of Adelaide. The plan is to move four a year until a total of 80 have been relocated.

“The numbers are deteriorating fast," he tells the ABC. “I thought Australia is one of the safest places on the planet to start this breeding herd, with the eventual intention that they would be repatriated to Africa when those [poaching] issues are sorted out.”

“If you or I don't do anything about it, who’s going to do something about it?” he adds. Taking the bull by the horns, one airlifted rhino at a time.

See more about the project here:

And for more information and to support the work, visit The Australian Rhino Project.

Via Smithsonian

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