When people think of courier services, they tend to picture routine deliveries of business documents. That, however, is only part of the story. Every day is different in the courier industry and many deliveries pose unique challenges. Some deliveries are downright surprising, and some even save lives.
Medical equipment, organs for use in transplants, blood for transfusions and medical samples often have to be delivered in a hurry, and couriers may do the job of getting them to the people who need them.
In 2013, for example, a courier based in South Africa transported a desperately needed heart internal defibrillator to Cameroon, just in time for a surgery. The same company also shipped tissue samples to the United States, for use in life-saving surgery on a little boy.
In areas of the world where there are blood shortages, such as parts of East Africa, it has become increasingly common for people to use couriers to organise private deliveries of blood.
Not all deliveries are as serious as those involving medical supplies. Often couriers are called upon to make people’s events just that little bit more special. It’s not uncommon for couriers to deliver everything from multi-tiered birthday cakes to costumes and specially prepared foods, sometimes across thousands of kilometres.
One courier reports having rushed a missing part of a woman’s wedding dress to her, arriving moments before the ceremony began. Another reports a cross-border delivery of a whopping 1.7 tonnes of cut flowers, for use in celebrating a double wedding of two sons.
Possibly topping the unusual food deliveries for last year was a shipment of 32 kilograms of haggis, all the way from the UK to a fundraising event with a Scottish theme in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
For courier companies, it can be tricky to transport items that are fragile, that have to be kept at a specific temperature or that are unusual in shape. Nothing quite compares, though, to the logistics involved in moving three endangered black rhinoceros across continents.
In 2013, a courier moved the rhinos from the UK to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro National Park. The job involved the use of a specially fitted Boeing 757, along with two aircraft engineers, a vet and two rhino keepers.
The year before, the same courier company successfully transported a family of silverback gorillas, along with 1.3 tonnes of food, from the UK to the Batéké Plateau National Park in Gabon. To reach their new home, the gorillas had to complete two flights on specially fitted Boeings, followed by a helicopter ride into the national park.
Other unusual deliveries
In Kenya, an enterprising woman has started up a courier service that focuses on delivering condoms to those too embarrassed to buy them in public. Not a bad idea in a country where it’s estimated that over 1.2 million people have HIV.
Among the unusual deliveries that one UK-based courier handled recently are false teeth, a batch of Cornish pasties from Manchester to Suffolk, various aircraft parts and football kits for urgent delivery to a Premier League club.
Another UK-based courier recalls delivering a 7-foot model giraffe from the Glenmorangie distillery in the Scottish Highlands to the Moët Hennessy offices in London. The giraffe, which was to be used in a promotional event, was named Gina.
When courier companies say they’ll deliver any package, no matter how big or small, they generally mean it.