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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Daring Elephant Rescue

A rescue they will never forget: Baby elephant and its mother pulled from mud lagoon by conservation workers

This is the dramatic moment that an elephant and its baby were rescued after they got stuck in a mud lagoon.

Conservation workers, who normally have a policy of leaving nature to fend for itself as much as possible, unless the problem was created by humans.

On this occasion, however, they could not sit by and let the mother and calf die in such a horrible way.

The family herd desperately tries to help the stricken mother and calf as they lie in the lagoon

The mud dries quickly making their mistake harder and the window of time for rescue much shorter

Workers managed to slip a rope under the baby before the hard work of pulling him free begins

The team of workers from South Luangwa Conservation Society pulls the calf first, avoiding the mother's thrashing trunk

Before the rescue by workers from South Luangwa Conservation Society on the flats of the Kapani Lagoon, Zambia, the mother and calf's herd tries to rescue the pair.

When they are unable to do anything, the team - along with members of the Zambian Wildlife Authority - moves in while the herd waits on the other side of some trees.

With mud in the lagoon drying quickly, the rescue becomes a race against time. Eventually a rope is slipped under the calf's trunk before the pulling can begin.

A couple of attempts are made to release the youngster but it wants to stay with its mother and goes back, getting stuck once again.

At one point, the calf appears to be calling for help while his mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets under way

The calf appears to be calling for help while his mother appears resigned to her fate before the rescue gets under way

Some would argue that rescuing the mother and baby meddles with the natural order

Although the calf appears to be almost free of the drying mud pool, she looks back to her mother

Shouting and waving frantically, the team tries to deter the youngster from returning to its mother

A final attempt is made to pull the calf further away from its mother who continues to thrash around in the mud

Eventually, they pull the calf out further away from what could have been its muddy grave. It hears the cry of a cousin elephant and runs towards it.

Rachel McRobb from the team said: 'Most conservationists believe that man should not meddle with the natural order and that we should allow nature to run her course however cruel or grim it seems to be. We agree on the whole, unless a wildlife problem has been created by man (for instance in the case of snaring or being trapped in a fence, in which case it's justifiable to intervene) then nature should be left to her own devices. She has a plan.

'However - every rule has an exception and the dreadful plight of a baby elephant trapped in the mud of the Kapani Lagoon and her mother, who had also got stuck trying to save her yesterday had us all in a frenzy of activity. We simply could not stand by and watch them struggle and slowly die.'

Once the calf is freed, the team works to help the mother who has become tired after all the thrashing around.

She is tied to a tractor and, inch by inch, she makes her way to freedom. Eventually she is pulled from the mud and runs towards her calf and the waiting family.

Finally there is some joy as the ropes are removed from the calf elephant after it is pulled clear

A cousin from her herd calls to her and she makes a dash for freedom

The focus then turns to the mother elephant who is becoming tired after struggling for so long

Manpower would not be enough to pull the adult elephant from what would have been a muddy grave

After an inch by inch struggle, she eventually senses freedom and starts to scramble through the mud once more

She cries out for her baby and the herd who are waiting for her just beyond the trees

A little weak and wobbly, she makes her escape to the delight of everyone who helped

After the long struggle, the mother makes a dash towards her calf and waiting family

Don't look down!

The terrifying see-through path stuck to a Chinese cliff-face 4,000ft above a rocky ravine

It is certainly not a path for the faint-hearted.

On one side a sheer rock face, on the other a 4,000ft drop - and all to separate the brave traveller from a deadly plunge is a 3ft-wide, 2.5in thick walkway.

And if that is not enough to bring terror into the pit of your stomach, the path running alongside a Chinese mountainside is made out of glass, allowing a crystal-clear view of where one false step can take you.

So it was perhaps understandable that this woman tackled the walkway by sticking as close to the cliff as possible, feeling her way along with tentative steps.

Don't look down: A brave tourist walks along the glass path that was built of the side of a cliff 4,700ft above sea level on Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie, China

Dazzling: A glass path suspended on a cliff face has been built on the side of the Tianmen Mountain in China
The skywalk is situated 4,700ft above sea level on the side of the Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie, China.
The 200ft long bridge joins the west cliff at the Yunmeng Fairy Summit, the summit of Tianmen Mountain and Zhang Jiajie.

And it would appear to be too scary for the cleaners - tourists are asked to put on shoe covers before passing to help keep the path clean.

The pathway, built earlier in the summer echoes the glass-bottomed walkway at the Grand Canyon in the U.S.

The 70ft bridge is 4,000ft above the natural wonder and allows tourists to look through 2.5in of crystal-clear glass to the Canyon floor below.

The Tianmen mountain, literally translated as Heavenly Gate Mountain is so called because of a huge natural cave that occurs halfway up to the summit.

Stunning: The skywalk offers breathtaking views across the Hunan Province for those brave enough to attempt to cross the bridge

Situated in the Hunan Province, Its highest peak is around 5,000ft above sea level and it is home to a wealth of rare species of plants 

A four-mile-long cable car was constructed in the park, which is said to be the longest of the same type in the world.

And no matter how terrifying the glass walkway may be - it can only be an improvement from another sky high mountain walkway located in the same province.

The Shifou Mountain, located 82 miles away, offers sightseers a 3ft-wide road made of wooden planks thousands of feet high.

When finished the wooden 'road' - which is the width of a dinner table - will stretch for 1.8miles making it China's longest sightseeing path.

Not so high spec: Workers built a 3ft-wide plank road on the side of Shifou Mountain, in Hunan Province, China earlier this year

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rhino Air: Hold onto your horns! Dangling miles above the earth, the amazing flight which saved a herd of rhinos from certain death

Dangling from cords tied to their ankles, 19 hulking animals were transported out of the South African hills inaccessible by road in the country's Eastern Cape.

And these incredible images show exactly how conservationists used a military helicopter to carry the herd of 1,400-kilo rhinos to their new home, away from poachers.

Conservationists put the endangered beasts to sleep and hoisted one at a tim e for the 15-mile flight.

The big move was orchestrated by World Wildlife Fund experts, who yesterday drove the rhinos 1,000 miles to fresh breeding ground in the northern Limpopo province.

Flying high: Each animal, which weighs at least two tons, spent 20 minutes in the air being flown to safety

Today photographer Michael Raimondo, who captured the spectacular scenes, said each animal spent around 20 minutes in the air.

He said: 'It was quite incredible. These things are so heavy - some of them weigh a couple of tons.

'The main aim was to ensure the rhinos were moved in a way that would not distress them, so they were darted and put to sleep before being lifted.' Mr Raimondo, director of environmental body Green Renaissance, was among a team of 25 who helped with the painstaking process.

He added: 'We couldn't get trucks to them as they were in a very remote area, so military choppers were needed to bring them out. 'The helicopters had been tried and tested during exercises so we knew they could carry incredibly heavy things.'

Hold onto your horns: Even though the rhinos were fast asleep, they were blindfolded to stop them becoming frightened if they suddenly woke up

Heavy load: The rhino's were darted and put to sleep before being airlifted to a secret location in a bid to increase the number across South Africa

The mammoth cargo included males that were nearly four metres long, and weighed up to 2,000 kilos.
Black rhinos are under threat across Africa, where poachers in safari parks and private reserves kill and maim the beasts for their horns.

New figures published today by the WWF revealed that more of the vulnerable animals have been slaughtered in the first 10 months of this year than during the whole of 2010.

Official statistics show that that 341 rhinos have been lost to poaching this year in South Africa, compared to 333 last year.

This week's herd was the seventh to be transferred to new bushland by WWF, which is attempting to increase the population.

The precise locations were not revealed in an effort to prevent criminals from targeting the animals.

WWF project leader Jacques Flamand helped revive the animals after each helicopter journey, which took place around half a mile above the ground.

He said: 'The operation was difficult due to the number of animals and the long distances involved.

Flight of the Rhino: Black rhinos are under threat across Africa, flying the animals out of danger was the only option for conservationists as their habitat wa s inaccessible by road

What just happened? One of the rhino's is woken up in his new home by Conservationist Jacques Flamand after taking a 15 miles flight upside down

'But wildlife veterinarians, conservation managers and capture teams worked cooperatively to ensure the success of the translocation. We were united in a common cause.'

The project was the first of its kind in South Africa, but previous trips with elephants in Malawi demonstrated how humane the procedure could be.

Dr Flamand added: 'Previously rhinos were either transported by lorry over very difficult tracks, or airlifted in a net.

'This new procedure is gentler on the darted rhino because it shortens the time it has to be kept asleep with drugs, the respiration is not as compromised as it can be in a net and it avoids the need for travel in a crate over terrible tracks.'

The WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has been running in South Africa for eight years, and seen 120 animals moved.

The operation is one of many conservation attempts to curb the death of the animals, which are classified as 'critically endangered'.

The increase in illegal hunting has been fuelled by a demand for horn in the Far East, where it is ground up and used in traditional medicines.

Earlier this year experts said the substance was being sold on the black market for around POUNDS 35,000 a kilogram - making it more valuable by weight than gold.

A world-first scheme launched in June saw a DNA database of rhino horns set up to crack criminal networks that kill and torture the beasts.

Black and white rhinos are popular sights in South Africa's array of game parks, which are visited by millions of tourists every year, many from Britain.

Oetzi: The 5,300-year-old Fall Guy

Oetzi the prehistoric iceman may not have been murdered, say scientists, who now believe he could be the world's first known mountaineering victim.

The ancient natural mummy was believed to have died 5,300 years ago when he was hit by an arrow during a hunting trip.

Scientists - who examined his frozen remains when they were discovered frozen in the Alps between the Austrian and Italian border 20 years ago - thought he'd then been finished off with a vicious club blow to the head.

Now new studies at Austria's Innsbruck University have revealed that Oetzi is more likely to have died during a fall while he was climbing.

Experts will now carry out a new body-mapping scan of his remains to check if his injuries could have been sustained accidentally.

Study head Wolfgang Recheis said: "His death could have been a mountaineering accident rather than him being shot by an arrow as previously thought. The arrow injury could have been an old injury."
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