This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Skip to main content

Talk to an expert 1-800-242-2434 Lines now closed

User menu

Bird? Plane? Superman? No…’s a flying rhino!

2 min read

Updated 01 November 2022

The rescue and team behind it. Pictures by Edward Selfe.
Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

*A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2022 Bush Telegraph newsletter. You can read our recent newsletters and sign-up to receive these in your inbox on our Bush Telegraph newsletter page.

It is not uncommon for ranger teams, wildlife researchers, conservationists or camp guides to be called upon to rescue wild animals in peril. Antelope caught in snares, young elephants stuck in muddy waterholes and even giraffe trapped by rising waters all require careful, cautious, quick assistance.

While researching in Zambia recently, we spoke to some of those involved in the most complicated and marvellous rescue mission: the daring airlift of a male black rhino more than 220km back to the protection of his home in North Luangwa National Park.

Since 2001, the North Luangwa Conservation Programme (NLCP) has been working tirelessly in this remote corner of the Luangwa Valley to reintroduce black rhinos to Zambia. It has been a highly successful programme, albeit one fraught with the challenges of keeping the rhinos well-protected from criminal gangs intent on poaching their horns. So when a young male black rhino went walkabout, the highly-trained Rhino & Elephant Protection Unit leapt into action.

Having trekked hundreds of kilometres south, into a remote southern area of the Luangwa Valley, this rhino was well out of reach for a road transfer to the monitored safety of North Luangwa. Instead, dedicated protection teams walked in and out of this challenging area for months to keep the rhino monitored and safeguarded. Meanwhile a team at the NLCP gathered expertise and equipment from specialists, neighbouring countries, helicopter companies and the Zambian Air Force before embarking on a unique airlift mission. Such an airlift had never before been attempted in Zambia, or over such a large distance. The airlift was so long that two stops had to be made for fuel and to check on the rhino’s sedation levels.

Nonetheless, this complex and risky operation was an extraordinary success. Dozens of people made the rescue mission possible: an assembly of pilots, vets, security operatives, conservationists, financial donors, community wildlife officers and many more showed outstanding dedication to rhino conservation.

If you’ve been inspired and want to find out more, give us a call or enquire now to speak to an expert.

Related Posts

Continue Reading

Login to Expert Africa

Sign in with password

Sign in with email link

New to Expert Africa? Create an account

Forgotten your details?

It's free & quick to set up

  • Save your wish-list
  • Send us an enquiry
  • Pay online for your trip
  • Subscribe to our newsletter
  • Give us feedback on your trip
  • Full site benefits of the site

Need some help? Talk to our team