JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A group of critically endangered black rhinos recently made an incredible journey across South Africa, a trip documented in a dramatic video.
The "flying rhinos" were transported by helicopter from the Eastern Cape province to a waiting vehicle, and then to a new home in Limpopo — a journey of nearly 1,000 miles.
The relocation of 19 black rhinos took place under the World Wildlife Fund's Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, which is working to increase the sub-species' population numbers, with the video filmed by Green Renaissance for WWF South Africa.
The "flying rhinos" will form the project's seventh new population group to be established in the last eight years.
Black rhinos are critically endangered. There are only about 4,000 in Africa, double the number in the 1980s when the population bottomed out.
Rhinos, both black and white, are being targeted by poachers who hack off their horns and sell them for medicinal use in Vietnam and China. (The difference between black and white rhinos is not actually their color, but rather their eating habits and mouth shape — the black rhino is a browser, and the white rhino, a grazer).
In South Africa, rhino poaching is at a record high: statistics from South Africa National Parks show that 341 rhinos have been lost to poaching in the first 10 months of 2011, more than the record of 333 killed last year.
In an interview last year with GlobalPost, Jacques Flamand, who is in charge of the WWF's black rhino project, explained that black rhinos require much larger territories than white rhinos — up to 140,000 acres, depending on the terrain and rainfall — and this creates serious security concerns when it comes to poaching.
“The larger the area is, the more difficult it is to protect,” he said.
Erin Conway-Smith is GlobalPost's South Africa correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: @ejcs