Big animals travel too

When we talk about traveling with animals, the first thing that comes to mind is pets, especially cats and dogs. But have you ever considered any other animals, such as wild animals or birds? Why and how could we transfer these animals?

For thousands of years, humans have been transporting animals for a variety of purposes. Some examples for those animals are personal pets like dogs or cats, food animals for slaughtering or sale such as cows or sheep, agricultural animals for breeding, zoological animals, laboratory animals, circus animals as elephants, race animals as horses and camels, and wild animals that are being rescued or relocated.

So by default, there are some guidelines for these kinds of transports since long-distance transportation of animals is regarded as extremely cruel and should be avoided if possible. As a result, the only fast option for long trips is to fly. As it is considered the most humane thing. And of course, the methods of transporting animals differ from species to species.

All the parties involved, including veterinary inspectors, animal keepers, handlers, and attendants, container manufacturers, air carriers, and pilots must maintain high standards. Regulation and oversight are the most effective ways to achieve this.
Those regulations must have a balance between achieving the safety requirements and treating animals humanely.

So the „Live Animals Regulations“ (LAR) of the „International Air Transport Association“ (IATA) are followed. It is the worldwide standard rule that is used in transporting living animals where it offers a detailed classification of thousands of animal species, as well as the container specifications needed to transport them. It also contains information on animal handling, marking, and labeling, as well as the documents required when transporting animals by air.

Most of the airlines handle animals as live cargo unless the aircraft is converted as a dedicated livestock carrier or the animals are considered to be pets and can be allowed to be in the cabin

Some important aspects influence the safe transportation of living animals. These are:

  • Aircraft Environmental Control System (ECS)
  • Animal physiology
  • Airport and en-route environments
  • Ground handling

To ensure the welfare and comfort of the live animal cargo and avoid death, three environmental conditions must be managed, the temperature, the relative humidity, and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the cargo compartment. Each of these factors varies depending on the species being carried (as well as their age and stage of pregnancy).

Carriers should always try to decrease the number of time animals are held in cargo compartments, which require strong collaboration between flight crews, loading and unloading ground crews, animal-handling agents, and air traffic control. For example, closing cargo doors last before departure and opening first on arrival may allow for more airflow and better animal welfare. Also, loading animals at night is better to avoid high daytime temperatures.

Credit: Live animal specialists from the abc CARE team organised the giraffes’ transportation.

There are also some general guidelines to assure animal welfare:

  • Generally, only animals that are in good health should be transported unless it is transported for treatment
  • Animals of different species should not be housed in the same container
  • Avoiding the transport of animals and carbon dioxide (in dry ice form usually) in the same section, as well as any cargo that contains lots of moisture to maintain the amount of heat in the containers. Also, any radioactive material or other substance is dangerous for animal health
  • Animal containers should be well designed under certain specifications. It should have ventilation gaps to allow airflow and a good amount of light. Also, it should allow proper inspections both in flight and on the ground
  • If in some regions of cargo compartment heat is greatly transferred through its walls then the animal densities should be reduced
  • Animals that get ill or are injured while being transported must be separated from the other animals and given immediate first-aid treatment, as well as appropriate veterinary treatment and if necessary, emergency slaughter in a manner that does not cause them unnecessary pain.

Numerous regulations must be observed, and each airline should establish its procedures for the safe and ethical transportation of animals. It is critical to seek advice from aircraft manufacturers on specific loading guidelines for various aircraft types and models.

Credit: Boeing aeromagazine

One of the most famous animal transportation is transporting horses for races. All horses, regardless of their class, are loaded into a huge movable crate, which is then fixed to the plane. For most long-haul flights, these crates can accommodate three horses standing side by side (economy), two horses (business class), or just one horse can have its own (first class). But no matter which class they’re in, once they are there they can’t get out of the container to stretch their legs in the aisle. It is not supposed to be very difficult as we all know that horses can just have a nap while standing.

The optimum temperature for horses in cargo is 40 – 80 deg F (4.4 – 26.6 deg C). And if the flight is less than 10 hours horses can go without food or water but if it is exceeding it is better to have a vet on board.

One of the most well-known aircraft that are used for horse transferring is B747. As it is well designed for human passengers on the upper deck while the lower deck fits the horses and cargo effectively.

Transferring horses can be a little expensive, especially internationally, as it includes the preflight fees for blood work and testing and sometimes they add an obligatory quarantine period that will add some cash to your bill. So, it is better to find a company that specializes in equine transportation that offers care and comfort to avoid stress for your horse.

Credit: Forbes com

Going through a different species like birds

If you have a small bird it may go to the cabin with you as long as their cage can fit beneath the front seat, of course, if the airline allows it, as some airlines prefer that it goes to the cargo of the plane and some other airlines prefer that the passenger buys an extra seat for his/her bird. But what about falcons, yes you read it right, falcons as eagles and hawks. The strangest thing is that some airlines treat falcons as cats and dogs where your falcon can accompany you in the cabin through the trip.

Having a falcon as a seatmate is popular on Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar, Emirates, Etihad, and Royal Jordanian Airlines. They are also allowed to travel while perched on their owners’ arms. Onboard flights, unrestricted. Of course, they have their passport as UAE issued more than 28,000 falcon passports till 2013. Not only that, but Lufthansa chose to accommodate the super-rich by developing a patented bird stand that allowed passengers to keep their falcons close by during the journey.

Credit : CNN

To summarize, animals travel like humans, but in different ways and according to different regulations. Each species follows its own set of rules to arrive at its destination safely.


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