Sunday, September 15, 2013

Serendipity at iSimangaloso


We thought we'd done well here at this World Heritage wetlands game park which 20 years ago was pine forest. We'd seen two of the Big Five plus all sorts of antelope, warthogs, monkeys, hippo, lots of birds and even a humpback whale - but then we saw the trucks. And the helicopter.

Game Capture trucks, three of them, rangers and workers, guns and radios. They were after 4 rhino, to be moved up north to keep a balance, and we were allowed to watch. The chopper hovered and swooped, chasing the big rhino bull to direct it near the road, the vet hanging out the open door ready to fire the dart.

He did, the rhino ran, still being directed, finally staggering and then collapsing. It was all go: the truck roared up, the container was positioned and the rhino righted (it takes 8 men to roll a rhino). Paperwork was done, leaning on the rhino's broad back, he was roped, blindfolded, tagged, notched, antidoted, the tip of his precious horn sawn off to fit in the crate. Cattle prods got him to lurch suddenly to his feet and into the crate, the doors were slammed and that was that.
It was a smooth operation, but traumatic for him, even doped up on opium - he was shuddering throughout - and also for us, watching, literally connecting with him (a rhino feels even more solid than it looks), especially seeing his horn sawn. So much like what poachers would do (reason for the armed guard - thousands of rands' worth in just that tip). And he was being sent up north, closer to Mozambique. Where the poaching is rampant.

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