Earlier this month, a 1400kg southern white rhino named Carrie made her way from Australia Zoo in Queensland to Monarto Safari Park in SA, which has dedicated over 20 years of work to helping ensure the species’ survival.
Daryl Dickenson Transport was the company responsible for getting her safely to her new home, some 2463 kilometres away.
There are only an estimated 14,000 southern white rhinos left in the world, with around 10,000 of these majestic animals lost to poaching in the last 10 years alone. So as you’d expect, a move of this sort doesn’t come along very often.
Nevertheless, this isn’t the first rhino move for Daryl Dickenson Transport. “We received an email about a rhino about five years ago but thought it was a prank, so we initially ignored it. Then someone called and it all went from there. We transported a rhino from Queensland to South Australia, and then brought a different rhino back up,” explained company owner Daryl Dickenson, who was behind the wheel for the most recent trip, running two-up with company driver Mark Ziersch.
“They still had our details so contacted us again when this rhino move came up. Usually our work is all steel, but now we specialise in exotic livestock too,” he laughed. “We’ve named ourselves the rhino wranglers.”
After serving in the navy for 10 years, followed by four years working in television, Dickenson, now 66, bought his first truck in 1988 – a Ford LNT 9000. He says the company started expanding into what it is today from around 2001.
“I thought I could earn more money in transport, so I got a job as a truck driver, before buying my own truck. I thought I could work as hard as anyone else,” he said.
The Carole Park based business now operates a fleet of 32 trucks and 75 trailers. “We do a lot of work into regional NSW and a lot of local work up here in Queensland, as well as some work into Melbourne.”
As well as running the business, Dickenson still spends a lot of time behind the wheel, averaging anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 kilometres each year.
With transporting such precious cargo as a rhino, a lot went on behind the scenes before Carrie could set off on her recent adventure.
The crate was sent up from Monarto Safari Park so that zookeepers at Australia Zoo could get the rhino acquainted with her new ride. “They would feed her in the crate to get her used to going in. Then on the day, they were able to get her in there, using food, and could give her a sedative to ensure she remained calm and at ease for the journey ahead,” Dickenson explained.
Pulled by a K200, the rhino set off from Daryl Dickenson Transport’s depot at 11.30am on Wednesday November 2. She arrived at Monarto Safari Park at around 4pm the next day.
The voyage was actually supposed to take place two weeks earlier but got delayed due to flooding. With all of the recent heavy rain, water on the roads still had an impact on the journey.
“The route we took was out to Goondiwindi, then through Gilgandra, we cut across to Narromine, then from there we went to Broken Hill. When we turned out to Burra, we found a road had been washed out, so had to turn around and go back with a B-double on. Then in SA, we were going to cut around the back but got told the bridge had been washed away, so had to back it up via a dirt road,” explained Dickenson.
Following behind the truck was a car with a vet and handler from the SA zoo, and a handler from Australia Zoo.
“There were potholes we saw that were as big as their car. There was water close to the road pretty much the whole way through. You could see the road damage pretty much as soon as you leave Toowoomba right up to the SA border, and then again once you get into SA. It’s going to take years to fix all the roads. I’ve been going through Gilgandra for 30 years and that’s the highest I’ve ever seen the water.
“We also couldn’t take her into Victoria because a rhino is classed as a noxious feral animal there, so it’s really difficult to get permits. It meant we had to go through SA, and when we got to SA, there was a requirement to have an armed escort, so by that point we had five people who had to follow us,” Dickenson said.
The truck also had to stop every two hours so the vets could check on her along the way, with only one unfortunate incident reported on the journey. “The crate was dogged and chained front and back, so each time they’d check on her, I’d have to undo the chains. On one stop, as I was undoing the chains, the rhino pissed on me. It was only 5 degrees outside so the water I had to use to wash it off was freezing!” he revealed.
Upon her arrival at Monarto Safari Park, Carrie joined fellow female rhinos Uhura, Umqali and Savannah, who had to do a stint together in quarantine.
Monarto Safari Park is believed to be the largest open-range zoo in the world, spanning over 1500 hectares. It’s home to more than 500 animals and 50 species. The first southern white rhino arrived there from Singapore in 2000. The latest rhino to arrive will join a crash of five other southern white rhinos – two mature bulls and three mature females – as part of an important breeding program.
Since 2005, the three female rhinos have produced seven calves. “The SA zoo reckon they’re building up a herd of 41 rhinos within the next eight years, so there might be some more rhino moves coming up,” Dickenson added.