KwaZulu-Natal - Black rhinos have been moved from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves to a new location in an effort to boost the critically endangered species’ population growth.

Last week 13 black rhinos were translocated, bringing the total to 130, according to environmental group WWF.

Eight new populations have been created through the WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project since 2003.

Project head Dr Jacques Flamand said in a statement that these populations resided on 160 000 hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, with more than 40 calves having been born on project sites.

By the beginning of October this year, 430 rhinos had been poached in SA.

Flamand said blood samples had been taken for testing to ensure that sedated rhinos being airlifted by their ankles during the translocation were not stressed by the move.

“We believe this is the best way to move rhinos as it does not compromise their breathing and reduces the distance and time they have to travel by truck over difficult terrain. While indications are that it does not harm the animals, we want to be absolutely sure,” said Flamand.

WWF said in a press release that generally speaking the limbs of an animal are in proportion to its body mass, so be it a mouse or an elephant, hanging them by four feet is proportionately the same and the muscles, connective tissue, bones and joints can cope with lifting by that means. Anaesthetised elephants are routinely hung by the feet with cranes at capture to move them while unconscious, it said.

“All the animals get up and walk normally as soon as they wake up. In our experience, no rhinos have shown any signs of harm. They have awoken normally and started eating immediately after release – a sure sign that they are not in distress.”