What is Rhinos Without Borders?

Rhinos Without Borders is a project of hope in which two like-minded conservation and travel companies, andBeyond and Great Plains Conservation, have joined forces in the fight against poaching to translocate 100 rhino from South Africa to the safe haven of Botswana. The aim is to create a viable breeding population of rhino in Botswana, thus broadening the gene pool and increasing the habitat for rhino in Africa, in this way spreading the risk.

Where are you moving them to?

The rhino are being placed in undisclosed secret locations in Botswana. The goal for Rhinos Without Borders is to place these animals in wildlife concessions and national parks throughout Botswana, letting them roam free. Although the animals’ movements are unhindered and they may move far away from the original release locations, we have kept these locations confidential in order not to attract unwanted attention and raise security concerns.

Why Botswana?

Botswana currently has one of the lowest poaching rates in Africa, partly thanks to a military-style approach to conservation, in which conservation officials are supported by an official anti-poaching unit, with a shoot to kill policy and political will from the top to help save rhinos.

Will it not just attract poaching to Botswana?

Poaching is likely to increase everywhere while there is demand for rhino horn. However, thanks to the reasons outlined above, Botswana currently provides some of the most protected and best habitat for rhinos.

Will they all go to the same place?


Why rhinos?

While rhino are only one of the species that is currently endangered through the risk of poaching, their numbers are being decimated particularly quickly. While the species has a vital role to play in the eco system, even more importantly, allowing them to go extinct will highlight a glaring gap in the natural balance. If we lose any of Africa’s iconic species we risk disturbing the natural balance of our eco system, like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces.

What is the most exciting part of this?

While anything that can be done to help save the species is exciting in and of itself, we believe that the most exciting part of the Rhinos Without Borders project is how it has brought two competing companies together to work along with private donors and government bodies towards the greater good.

What RWB means for the conservation of rhinos?

    • A story of hope for rhino, Rhinos Without Borders sees private companies working with the governments of two countries to benefit conservation.
    • It creates awareness that private sector companies can have a marked impact on conservation issues by working with government and that conservation is a shared responsibility that does not have to rest in governments’ hands alone.
    • It also serves as a success story to stimulate new projects, whether by members of the travel industry or the direct public. While it is true that rhino conservation faces critical challenges at the moment, we aim to stimulate the debate and believe many conservation situations can be changed if we all work together.
    • On a purely practical level, the initiative is also helping to increase the number of rhino in Botswana, assisting them in reaching their objective of growing the rhino population in the country.

1. Why does it cost US$45,000 to translocate one rhino?

The USD45 000 cost per rhino was a calculated amount when the project was initiated however this amount does depend on where we source the rhino from or if they are donated. If we source rhino from a big national park one of the factors that impact cost is distance of boma from capture site…in big national parks this can cover long distances and hence impact the costs. Until we know the source of the rhino it’s hard to establish exact costs but USD45-50 is as close to the mark as we can come.

2. What is the % breakdown in cost for the different phases of rhino translocation? (Please be as specific as possible.)

This is not financials we are in a position to share.

3. How many rhinos have been identified for translocation to date?

How many are black or what percentage of the target is estimated to be black? There are many Rhino populations in South Africa that have been managed to maintain maximum breeding potential, so most provincial and National parks will remove Rhino on an annual basis. Over the last 10 years about 200 -300 rhino are traded annually from both national and private game reserves. We have committed to translocate 100 of which 10 have been moved and we are well on our way to funding for the next 10.

4. To date, 10 rhinos have actually been translocated? All were white? Is translocation going to be in batches of 10, and why or why not? (Eg. will it be more if they are all black rhinos?).

We calculated the number of rhino per batch that can be flown, initially we used batches of 5 as the aircraft that we were hoping to use could carry 5 White Rhino – it was a C 130. We managed to source the Illusin 76 which has a carrying capacity of 10 Rhino, so the batch size increased to 10. The batch size is dependent on the mode of transport but it is difficult to release batches of more than 10 in one place. Yes all our first 10 are white rhino.  Black Rhino are smaller but will need to be held in Bomas pre-release so the limiting factor is the amount of rhino that the release bomas can handle.

5. The Ilyushin IL-76 was used for the initial batch? What is the maximum capacity for rhinos on this aircraft and what other planes are suitable for translocation? What modifications, if any, are required to transport the rhinos?

All transport planes are designed to carry pallets or loads that are palatable. We designed the crates to fit into the height and size of the plane and built spreader bars to lift the crates side by side as the Il 76 has and on board crane system that was used to carry the crates into the cargo hold. The changes are made to the load and not to the aircraft. Any aircraft that can lift 3 tons and has 1.5m X 3.5m cargo door can lift a Rhino. The C130 can lift 19 000kg and the ill 76 can lift 48 000 kg.

6. How many days does it take on average for a typical rhino translocation (from the time a rhino to be identified, to when it finally released in the wild in Botswana)?

The first 10 Rhino were caught in 2 days. The required quarantine is 21days (3 weeks) but we typically hold them for 50-6 weeks to ensure that they are fully adjusted and to the quarantine environment and at their peak health before we risk moving them.  We then did free release of 6 of the rhino and the 2 cow calf combinations were released into a pre-release boma in Botswana to make sure that the cow found her calf after exiting the confines of the crate – this only takes a few hours and the pair are released together 2 or 3 days later.

7. What was the total distance travelled (in km) for the first 10 rhinos? (Within South Africa, flight and land journey in Botswana).

The rhino were transported by road 430/450km, they were flown 1500km so a total of roughly 1950km

8. What was the total weight of the initial batch of 10 rhinos?

The total weight per steel crate was 800kg so the crates weighed 8 tons and the rhino in total about 18 tons making the total load 26 tons or 26 000kg

9. How many different places did the relocated rhinos came from?

Due to safety concerns we are not able to share this information.

10. What is the estimate of the number of locations the eventual 100 (or 250) rhinos will come from?

Due to safety concerns we are not able to share this information.

11. How many people were involved in the initial translocation of the 10 rhinos? (From capture to quarantine centre to flight to the 60 soldiers guarding convoy.).

Each capture team consists of 14 people loading and we have 2 teams operating along with a pilot and vet which makes the total 30 people during capture. Quarantine was another 10 people including security bringing the number up to 40 people for the quarantine. Then the same two teams of 14 to load and an additional 6 security to escort them on the road trip with 4 specialists that accompany the Rhino on the plane.  50 different people in SA and 24 in Botswana excluding the BDF and DWNP guards in the convoy

12. How many nationalities have been involved in the translocation efforts to date?

We have not specifically tracked this but def South African and Botswanan

13. What is included in the logbook that supposedly accompanies each rhino earmarked for relocation?

A photo of the rhino from the front showing both ears, age and sex. A microchip implant numbers and recognisable feature like ear tag number. Any telemetry frequencies for any telemetry that might be active and fitted to the Rhino

14. The Botswana Defence Force employs a “shoot to kill” policy. Has this policy been practised and if yes, how many times?

Yes – The reason is that the Defence Force patrols the borders and not the police.  So armed incursions are considered just that, armed incursions and are treated as such by the BDF. The number is classified.

15. How many nationalities have financially contributed toward translocation efforts?

Donations have been made worldwide from various sources to it’s hard to say.