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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : November 2000 : Rhino hunt pushes team to the limit

Rhino hunt pushes team to the limit

The Indianapolis Star
November 19, 2000

The 6,000-pound bull rhinoceros had been down on his side for about 20 minutes. A potent cocktail -- part anesthetic, part tranquilizer -- had left the mighty animal as helpless as a newborn.

Members of Kruger National Park's wildlife-capture team parked a flatbed truck in front of the rhino, positioned a steel crate a few feet from its head and tied a rope to his horn. Everything was in place to help the animal into the crate -- everything, that is, except the men needed to push the 3-ton animal to his feet.

Now, there's something you must understand: A drugged rhino is dead weight. Of course, the alternative -- forcing a nondrugged rhino into a crate -- is an even less attractive option, especially when you're the one doing the forcing.

So, the team opted for the dead weight -- and prepared to lift the rhino. The job takes anywhere from three to seven men -- depending on the rhino (and the men).

Having seen this process three times during our trip, I decided to join four other hardy souls alongside the massive beast. I was two spaces from the rhino's horn, ready to do my part. Handlers describe rhinos as muscle covered by sandpaper -- and that's about right.

The head of the capture team, Dr. Douw Grobler, gave the order. Ten men pulled on the rope as those of us next to the animal pushed. And pushed. Finally, after about three minutes, the rhino struggled to his feet -- and stayed there just long enough to stagger into the crate.

The lesson: When it comes to saving this endangered species, the first small step is a big push.



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