Landing the huge aircraft on a small dirt airstrip in the middle of the Okavango is an exhilarating experience, but the pilots are incredibly skilled. The rhinos’ crates are carefully removed from the hold and loaded onto specially-adapted trailers.
The rhinos are driven through the bush to the bomas and introduced to their new homes. On average they will stay here for a few days, while they flush the drugs out of their systems, acclimatise and get to know the local browse.
The boma manager and the team from RCB are devoted to the care of their new charges. Each morning, they remove dung from the black rhino enclosures, clean their water troughs and rake the sand to remove any thorny twigs that might stick in the rhinos’ feet.
They introduce the rhinos to the vegetation of the Okavango Delta and, depending on what they like, bring them fresh browse each day.
They observe all the rhinos closely to be sure that they are eating, defecating, urinating and communicating with each other. The boma team are encouraged to talk to the rhinos in a soft voice and even “mew” to them to get them used to certain sounds and voices. Tourism has an important role to play in keeping these rhinos safe!
On some rare occasions, rhinos do not adapt to being confined in the bomas. They press their horns between the wall poles to find a weakness and shove the door to test its strength. That’s okay. It’s only if they become depressed and stop eating that we must take action. Often releasing them is the best policy – they usually start eating immediately. Then we know they are going to be just fine…