An experiment that hung rhinos upside-down to see if it was better for the animals has been awarded one of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes.
Groundbreaking studies into how well beards soften punches to the face, as well as orgasms as a nasal decongestant were honoured on Thursday night with one of the most coveted awards in science.
Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – Nobel awards, to be announced from Stockholm and Oslo next month, the Ig Nobels celebrate the quirkier realms of science, rewarding research that first makes people laugh and then makes them think.
The transportation prize went to a group that found airlifting tranquilised rhinoceroses upside down is probably better for them than carrying them on their sides in slings.
Wildlife veterinarian Robin Radcliffe, from Cornell University, and colleagues hung 12 rhinos upside-down for 10 minutes in Namibia because they wanted to know if the health of the animals might be compromised when slung by their legs beneath a helicopter.
Rhinos are being increasingly transported in African conservation efforts to shift the animals between fragmented habitats. This study wanted to ensure that the upside-down methods being used were safe.
The scientist looked at the tranquillised animals’ heart and lung function while being carried upside down and found there was evidence that it was better than lying chest down or on their side.
“This has really changed rhino translocation, and even more so elephant translocation. Picking these big animals up by their feet – it’s now accepted. The next thing we’ve got to do is some research on other species like buffalo, hippo, and maybe even giraffe,” said team-member and wildlife doctor Pete Morkel to BBC News.