A tube conveyer that can transport rhinos across the Indian subcontinent is being built at a factory in Uttar Pradesh, and will be the first of its kind in India.
The Spiral Tube Rhinos project is a collaboration between a US company, Spiral Tube, and Indian firm Spiral Transport.
The project is funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and will use a pair of Spiral Tube conveyor tubes, which have a diameter of 3 metres (12ft), to transport the animals to and from a rhino sanctuary.
The tubes will carry the animals from the southern state of Uttar Pradesh to the northern state of West Bengal, and back, via an elevated railway track.
“The rhinos are highly endangered and the facilities needed to safely transport them are limited,” says Dr Akshay Singh, an associate professor of zoology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, US, and a co-author of the paper on the project.
“This is a significant advancement in the field of rhino rehabilitation.”
The rhinos, which were imported from South Africa to India as baby rhinos to be used for research and entertainment, have not been released back into the wild since 2011.
The idea behind the project is to provide safe transportation to the sanctuary where the animals are being kept, and bring the animals closer to the people and society they were originally intended to help.
In the past, rhinos have been transported by motorbike, and they often suffered severe injuries, but this time they will be able to walk, run and play safely on the high-speed railway track, said Singh.
“We’ve found that in these situations, when you bring a rhinoceros back to its original habitat, it can feel much better to be with them,” he said.
The rhino’s head will be attached to a cable that will attach to the underside of the conveyor tube.
The animals will be carried to the Sanctuary and taken to a designated enclosure where they will spend up to three weeks in a specially designed enclosure, before being released back to the wild.
The team at Spiral Tube are planning to start using the rhinos in the next two years.
“A lot of the rhinocentres in India are very poor,” said Singh, who is also a coauthor of a paper on a similar project in Pakistan.
“Many people have given up on rhinos because they are just not available, and the rhines are no longer as popular as they used to be.”
A rhino in the wild in South Africa The idea of a rhinos-to-rhinos railway project is similar to a similar one in India where the government recently invested $1.5 million in a tunnel between two towns in the western state of Uttarakhand.
The Indian government hopes the project will provide rhinos with a safe and comfortable place to live, while also providing them with a place to rehabilitate and re-establish themselves in their native habitat.
The government also plans to build a rehabilitation facility in the area, and to use the money to provide rhino-friendly schools and services to the animals.
“These animals will get to enjoy the outdoors with the humans and nature in the same way that people enjoy visiting the zoo or seeing a film,” Singh said.
“They will learn to trust people and interact with other animals.
And they will learn how to behave responsibly and humanely in the public spaces of their native communities.”