With rhino poaching on the rise in South Africa, wildlife managers are increasingly turning to a last-resort measure to keep the animals safe—relocating rhinos, sometimes across international borders, to areas with lower poaching pressure. Fortunately, recent advances in rhino relocation techniques have made these challenging moves far more successful. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the approach that has given transfer teams the biggest leg up is a foot-first flight. Instead of darting rhinos with large drug doses and corralling dazed animals into a convenient location to be picked up by truck, an airlift operation allows teams to capture an animal from any location and to use less anesthetic, because the process is so much quicker. Blindfolding the rhinos during their flight helps to further reduce the stress of the move. This black rhino (Diceros bicornis) was one of 15 animals relocated from South Africa’s Great Fish River Nature Reserve north to an undisclosed private game reserve near Botswana’s southern border, where it is hoped they will be the start of a new, secure population. Photographer Pete Oxford documented the move from his seat inside a Robinson 44 helicopter, while a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter airlifted the rhino a short distance to a waiting truck that would carry the animal to its new home.
Great Fish River Nature Reserve, South Africa
Pete Oxford was a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He was awarded Ranger Rick Photographer of the Year and Ecuador’s Photo Journalist of the Year in 2015, and was recognized by Outdoor Photography Magazine as one of the 40 most influential wildlife photographers in the world. His work has been published in many international magazines including National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, International Wildlife, GEO, Smithsonian, and Nature’s Best.