Researchers have been awarded the 2021 Ig Nobel prize after conducting an experiment where rhinoceroses were hung upside down to see what effect it had on the animals health.
The Ig Nobel prizes are not as famous as the Nobel prizes but it is given to researchers who carry out researchers that first make you laugh but then make you think.
Other recipients of the 2021 prize included teams that studied the bacteria in chewing gum stuck to pavements, and how to control cockroaches on submarines.
The awards ceremony was conducted online as it couldn’t take place at the Harvard University in the US because of Covid restrictions.
The science humor magazine, Annals of Improbable Research, says the rhino study, deserved this year’s honor because “what could seem more daft than hanging 12 rhinos upside down for 10 minutes?”
The research was carried out by wildlife veterinarian Robin Radcliffe, from Cornell University, and colleagues in Namibia because they wanted to know if the health of the animals might be compromised when slung by their legs beneath a helicopter or crane.
He told BBC News: “Namibia was not the first country to move rhinos upside down with helicopters, but they were the first to take a step back and say, ‘hey, let’s study this and figure out, you know, is this a safe thing to do for rhinos?”
And so, his team, in collaboration with the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism, suspended 12 tranquillised black rhinoceroses by their feet from a crane, and measured their physical responses.
They found out that the animals coped very well with evidence showing the rhinos did better in this unusual position than simply lying chest down or on their side.
“I think the reason for that is, when a rhino is on its side, you have positional effects of blood flow. So in other words, the lower parts of the lung are getting lots of blood flow for gas exchange, but the upper part of the lung, just because of gravity, is not getting per fused well, so when a rhino is hanging upside down, it’s basically like it’s standing upside up; the lung is equally per fused.
“We’ve also seen that rhinos that are on their side too long, or on their sternum, especially – they get muscle damage, they get myopathy, because they’re so heavy. And there’s no pressure on their legs, other than the sense of the strap around their ankle,” Robin explained.