The Ig Nobel Prize, created by the science magazine Annals of Improbable Research to honor curious and “imaginative” discoveries was awarded to a research team from Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Brazil, the UK and the USA who conducted an experiment that involved hanging rhinoceroses upside down, suspended in the air by their feet. Their goal was to find whether rhinos could be more safely transported when airlifted. The team sedated 12 black rhinoceroses in Namibia using aerial darts, between 1,770 and 2,720 pounds each, bound their legs, and suspended them.
The findings of the experiment had important implications for conservation efforts. Helicopters were used to move sedated rhinos across inaccessible terrain for about a decade but using a different method. Robin Radcliffe, a senior lecturer in wildlife and conservation medicine at Cornell University, the lead researcher, said the team had assumed hanging rhinos upside down in transit would be worse for their welfare and were surprised to learn the opposite was true. The rhinos were found to have higher blood oxygen levels when suspended upside down. Conservationists like the upside-down airlift because it’s faster, easier and less expensive than the stretcher option.