Rhino in tall grass


Ever wondered how to safely transport a rhino?

Environment > Ever wondered how to safely transport a rhino?

You can read this in 5 minutes

C’mon, we know you’ve thought about it – and now one of life’s great mysteries has been solved!

21 September 2021, 3:00 PM


Whoever thought science was boring, clearly didn’t know about the Ig Nobel awards (like the Nobel Prize, but more… ignoble… geddit?). From rhino transport innovation and a way to collect whale snot (yep, that’s right), to diaper-changing machines and pizza that could save lives, these wild and wacky awards have it all!

Intrigued? We had you at whale snot, didn’t we? 😉  

The awards have been running since 1991 and are all about celebrating unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate the successes that first make people laugh, and then make them think, and each year recognise ten unusual and imaginative solutions to problems we often didn’t know we had. 

One of the latest Ig Nobel Prizes was awarded for an experiment that hung rhinoceroses upside down to see what effect it had on them. We're not even joking - a wildlife veterinarian hung 12 rhinos upside down for 10 minutes in Namibia, all to find out if the health of the animals might be compromised when slung by their legs beneath a helicopter! – or whether it may be safer than current transportation methods.

We’re pretty sure you’re thinking ‘BUT WHY?’ right about now…

Well, African conservation work involves moving rhinos between areas of uneven habitat and they need to do it in the safest way possible for the animals. So, a wildlife veterinarian teamed up with the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism to suspend 12 tranquillised black rhinos by their feet from a crane and measure their physical responses. It turns out, the animals coped really well and actually did better in this unusual position than simply lying chest down or on their side – who’d have thunk it?!

Apparently, when a rhino is on its side, the upper part of the lung doesn’t get any blood flow, due to our old friend gravity, which increases their blood pressure and is obviously pretty dangerous. But when a rhino is hanging upside down, it’s basically the same force exerted on them as if they were just standing up, so doesn’t put them in any danger.

It’s also known that, unfortunately, if rhinos are on their side for too long, they can get muscle damage because they are so heavy (chunky but funky, we say!). This way, there’s no pressure on their legs, other than the sense of the strap around their ankle.

We wonder if this could work for other animals – perhaps even a giraffe! Suppose they’d need to fly a little higher in that case…

Other award winners included teams that studied the different species of bacteria in chewing gum stuck on pavements (pretty gross) and how to control cockroaches on submarines (as ya do!)

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) actually partnered and hosted the Ig Nobel awards back in 2013! The event kicked off with Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe talking about her research into poultry cognition or 'Do hens have friends?' - the question we've always wanted to know the answer to! 

Here are just a few more weird and wonderful award winners that made us chuckle…

• Analysing cat-human communication – from purring and meowing, to moaning, hissing, howling and growling

• Chemically analysing the air inside movie theatres to test whether the odours produced by an audience reliably indicate the levels of violence, sex, antisocial behaviour, drug use or bad language in the movie the audience is watching (or you could just watch the film…)

• Testing the hypothesis that humans evolved beards to protect themselves from punches to the face – that must have been a painful one to test!

• An experiment to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians (LOL)

• Creating an image projection device that makes it possible to drive a car and watch television at the same time – note: we don’t condone this!

• Inventing PawSense software that detects when a cat is walking across your computer keyboard (aw!)

• Developing a way to extract vanilla fragrance and flavouring from cow poop (our story on making vanilla flavouring from plastic isn’t sounding so gross now, is it?!)

• Perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter

• Measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin (a classic comic conundrum)

• Inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg – not sure when you’d need to do that, but you do you!

And the list goes on and on – check it out on the Ig Nobel website.

What weird but wonderful ideas can you come up with? Head over to our social channels and let us know!

Next article: Fancy a house made from plastic bricks?

Warning: may blow your mind!

Check out our top picks


The food waste app that’s revolutionising the way we eat


Saving the ice caps, one bead at a time


The future of sustainable fashion

Incredible people, unbelievable stories


We can all
change the world

We are #DifferenceMakers, a ground-breaking movement inspiring us all to make a change, no matter how big or small, by sharing remarkable stories of how engineering and technology are saving the world around us. Expect the unexpected – from super sustainable fashion and squeaky clean streaming, to apps that combat food waste and
tech to stop the ice caps melting.

We’re changing the way everyone sees engineering and technology, and proving they're a force to be reckoned with when it comes to saving our planet! If you care about making a difference and want to learn more, then join our movement today.

#DifferenceMakers was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) – one of the world’s largest engineering institutions and a diverse home for everyone in engineering and technology.