Nairobi, Dec 15 (Swara) – A rhino can experience physical exertion during translocation similar to the strain felt by a runner participating in a marathon, a new study has found.

A team of researchers led by Leith Meyer, Director of the Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, is studying how to reduce stress and improve the overall physical condition of rhinos throughout the translocation process.

With funding from the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), the team monitors energy and hydration levels and overall immune system functioning to get a better understanding of how rhinos cope (or don’t cope) when they are moved from one location to another.

“By understanding the potential health issues, they [rhinos] may have during transport, we can implement treatments before and during a translocation to reduce the risks,” said Meyer. “We can then administer fluids and supplements before and during transport to ensure optimum health when they arrive in their new home.”

Over the past five years, there have been at least 3,887 recorded rhino poaching incidents in Africa with more than 3,200 of the incidents taking place in South Africa. White rhinos face the most intense poaching pressure. Their population has decreased by almost 12 per cent in the past four years, from an estimated 18,067 to fewer than 16,000 today. Translocations can move endangered rhinos to more secure areas and former ranges.

“This study is the first of its kind for rhinos and will have a big impact on conservation, providing recommendations about which medications should be given to rhinos during transport and the appropriate amount of fluids to administer during an overnight translocation, all to ensure rhinos are on the best possible footing when released,” said Nina Fascione, the executive director of IRF.

While this research is primarily focused on white rhinos, Meyers said the findings could be generalized to other rhino species. “Because the International Rhino Foundation supports essential rhino translocations throughout Africa and Asia, the information we’ve learned from this study can help inform health and welfare standards for rhino translocations globally,” said Fascine.