Friday 21 April 2023

Rhinocerious? Absolutely

Well at least this idiot gave the NZ Herald sub the chance for a satisfying pun. The man spent about a quarter of an hour splashing about in the water while Auckland Zoo's three white rhino watched from a distance, twitching their ears, and the nyala antelopes were thoroughly spooked. The perp was hoicked out and whisked away into custody, but subsequently released without charge, presumably because he's not all there.

You would have to be mentally lacking, to do something like this. Rhino are notoriously un-laid back about encounters with people, and can launch into a fast charge remarkably quickly for such huge and heavy animals. And if they catch you? Not good. That's why it was such a thrill to go on a rhino walk in South Africa, out on foot and perilously vulnerable.

Thanks to Imake a Difference, I did this in Somkhanda Game Reserve in 2013, on a trip there to learn about and publicise the disgusting growth in rhino poaching (currently still a huge problem, and threatening the very survival of the species in the wild). We went out looking for collared rhino, to demonstrate how the electronic tagging works via telemetry, but ended up tracking down by traditional means a group of five untagged white rhino - a bull, two cows and their calves - which we then walked up to. In single file, silent, each of us eyeing up the spindly thorn trees which would be our only refuge in case of a charge. We got to within 50m of them, and it was tense, especially when the bull looked towards us - we froze, trusting in the knowledge that rhino eyesight is very poor, though their hearing is excellent.

Then, even more excitingly, at &Beyond's Phinda reserve, we walked to see a black rhino - notoriously more touchy and bad-tempered than the white - which was tetchily prowling around a burnout, looking for browse.

That I'm still here to tell the story of course shows you that it can be done, and survived - but only thanks to the people in charge who knew what they were doing. And who were totally fired-up to get the story out about the obscene market in China and Vietnam for cruelly-obtained rhino horn that's made of keratin and is no more effective against illness or hangovers than chewing your own fingernails. This is the sort of rhino encounter I'd wish on everyone involved:

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