The endangered African Unicorn

“Look mom, tourist types!”

One of the most precious things one can probably see in nature is a mother and her baby. Even more precious if it is an endangered animal like the White Rhino. The sad part of spotting and photographing rhino is that people get all up in arms when you publish your photos to show off these magnificent animals. I took the photos in this post somewhere in 2018 and as much as I would like to use them to promote the reserve I have decided to keep the location anonymous. It was fantastic though to sit and watch mom and baby out in the open just after they had a bit of a mud bath

“Wait for me mommy!”

The white rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest extant species of rhinoceros with about 18 000 animals left in the world. A popular theory of the origins of the name “white rhinoceros” is a mistranslation from Dutch to English. The English word “white” is said to have been derived by mistranslation of the Dutch word “wijd”, which means “wide” in English. The word “wide” refers to the width of the rhinoceros’s mouth. So early English-speaking settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the “wijd” for “white” and the rhino with the wide mouth ended up being called the white rhino and the other one, with the narrow pointed mouth, was called the black rhinoceros.

“Now that was refreshing!”

The white rhino has a gestation period of 16 months before a single calf is born. The calf usually weighs between 40 and 65 kg. When threatened, the baby will run in front of the mother, which is very protective of her calf and will fight for it vigorously.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia

#Iam4rhinos

 
I can’t think that there are many people out there who doesn’t know about the plight of the rhino yet 618 rhino has been killed by poachers in South Africa this year so far to satisfy the demand for rhino horn in the East.  At this rate rhino could disappear of the face of this earth before I have grandchildren one day and posts like this would only be possible with old photos or ones like this rhino conservation piece outside the Durban ICC.  In 2010 the WWF South Africa established World Rhino Day to take places annually on 22 September to focus on raising awareness on the increased threat of rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn. The day has become a global phenomenon and gives concerned citizens the opportunity to stand up for rhino conservation.  This year the campaign was taken another step up with the appeal to Twitter users to use the hash tag #iam4rhinos and get 1 000 000 tweets for rhino conservation.  As I’m typing this the number is standing on 130 336 130 341 130 357 130 400 and counting.  Keep track of the campaign on #Iam4rhinos.

The idea for the bronze rhino outside the Durban ICC was born during the planning of the Fifth World Parks Congress which took place in the city in 2003.  The rhino is installed on a plinth with the following inscription:  “The White Rhinoceros” This dramatic and powerful animal is a symbol of the contribution made to SOUTH AFRICA by BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION the endeavours of which have led to the RESTORATION OF OUR WILDLIFE HERITAGE and A MASSIVE CONTRIBUTION TO THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF SOUTH AFRICA. It also celebrates the holding of the Fifth World Parks Congress at the Durban ICC, September 2003. Commissioned by THE CONSERVATION TRUST”.

World Rhino Day

Today we celebrate the third annual World Rhino Day not just here in South Africa, but world wide.  World Rhino Day highlight the plight of the rhino which is targeted by ruthless poachers all over the world for their horns which are thought to have medicinal properties by the people in most countries in the Far East.  Part of World Rhino Day is to debunk the myths and diminish the demand for rhino horn.  Up to 12 September rhino poaching in 2012 has lead to the killing of 381 rhinos throughout South Africa.  In 2008 only 83 rhinos were killed with 122 in 2009.  Since then poaching incidents have skyrocketed with 333 in 2010 and 448 in 2011.  If it goes on like this my great-grandchildren will only get to see pictures of rhinos in books.

Ode to the white rhino

I’ve been very fortunate to visit a couple of different game reserves over the last year or so and would like to share the following White Rhino pictures with you.  In the light of the pressure that poachers are putting on the rhino population I won’t divulge which game reserve I took the pictures at.  Very sad really.  We were lucky enough to see them on both our game drives and it was amazing just sitting there in silence while watching them.
 

White (wijdmond) Rhino

Popular theory is that the White Rhino got its name from the fact that the English misunderstood what the Dutch meant when they referred to it as the Wijdmond Renoster.  Wijd is Dutch for wide which referred to the rhino’s wide mouth.  The white rhino or square-lipped rhinoceros is a grazer and eats grass, preferring the shortest grains, hence the wide mouth comes in very handy.  Kinda like a living lawnmower.

Wit Renosters

Dit is ‘n hartseer realiteit dat die renosters in Suid-Afrika onder ‘n hengse druk geplaas word as gevolg van stropers wat hulle skiet en die horings uitkap.  Die horings word dan na die Ooste gesmokkel waar daar ‘n groot aanvraag is omdat hulle dink die horings medisinale kragte het.  Dis ‘n baie hartseer situasie en as dit nie gou gestop word nie mag daar dalk geen renosters oor wees in hierdie land oor 10 jaar nie.
Die witrenoster (Ceratotherium simum) is nie regtig wit nie.  Hy het ‘n wye mond met ‘n breë bolip wat hy gebruik om gras te wei en die Nederlanders het na hom verwys as die wydmondrenoster.  Toe die Engelse na die Kaap gekom het het hulle die Nederlanders verkeerd verstaan en gedog hulle verwys na hom as die witrenoster.  Die verskil tussen die witrenoster en swartrenoster is dat die swartrenoster (wat dieselfde kleur is) ‘n gepuntde bolip het waarmee hy blare van takkies af trek en eet.
‘n Volwasse witrenoster het ‘n gemiddelde massa van 3 500 kg en ‘n hoogte van ongeveer 160 cm. Sy voorste horing kan tot 158 cm lank word en sy tweede horing tot 56 cm. Die witrenoster kan ‘n topspoed van 45 km/h behaal.  Die wyfie is 18maande dragtig waarna ‘n enkele kalfie gebore word.  Witrenosters kan tot 45 jaar leef.

Die Groot Vyf

Wie of wat is die Groot Vyf?  Kom ons wees meer spesifiek en sê die Groot Vyf van die diereryk, anders dink mense dalk ons praat van lande, natuurwonders of toerisme-attraksies.  So, wie of wat is die Groot Vyf van die diereryk?  Dis nie die vyf grootste diere of die mooiste vyf nie, maar die vyf wilde diere wat die gevaarlikste was om te voet te jag in Afrika.  Ek sê was want vandag is dit niks om ‘n dier vanaf die agterkant van ‘n bakkie of uit ‘n helikopter te skiet nie.

Die eerste en grootste dier op die lys is die olifant wat tot die familie Elephantidae behoort.  Die Afrika-olifant  (Loxodonta africana) is beide algeheel groter en het groter ore as die Indiese olifant (Elephas maximus), wat beperk is tot Indië en Suidoos-Asië.  Die soogdier wat huidiglik die nouste verwant is aan olifante is … wag vir dit … die Suid-Afrikaanse dassie.  Dit is omdat beide dieselfde beenstruktuur in hulle voete het.  Die foto is in die Addo Nasionale Olifantpark geneem wat seker een van die beste plekke in die land is om wilde olifante van redelik naby te besigtig.

Die leeu (Panthera leo) is een van die vier “groot katte” in die genus Panthera.  Dit is die tweede grootste katspesie naas die tier en weeg tussen 150 en 250 kilogram.  In die natuur word leeus tussen 10 en 14 jaar oud, terwyl dié in gevangenskap tot oor die 20 jaar oud kan word.  Hulle word nie verniet die koning van die oerwoud genoem nie, alhoewel hulle nie regtig oerwoud diere is nie en eerder op die savana’s en bosveld van Afrika voorkom.

Daar is gereeld besprekings onder mense oor of dit die swart- of wit-renoster is wat ingesluit is in die Groot Vyf.  Die kleiner swartrenoster (Diceros bicornis) kom gewoonlik in bosse voor en is die meer aggresiewe van die twee terwyl die witrenoster (Cerarotherium simum) meer in ooptes voorkom omdat hy gras eet.  Die swart-renoster is die een was oorspronklik ingesluit is in die Groot 5 alhoewel albei oor die algemene aanvaar word.  Renosters is in die laaste tyd verskriklik geteiken vir hulle horings wat op die swartmark in die Ooste verkoop word.  Dit het so erg geraak dat ek nie met veiligheid kan sê waar die foto van die swartrenoster hierbo geneem is nie.

Die buffel is ‘n gelyktonige hoefdier van die familie Bovidia, en die subfamilie Bovinae.  Die buffel word geken as ‘n formidabele en onvoorspelbare teenstander en kan tot 56km/uur hardloop.  Buffels is sekerlik die mees onderskatte van die Groot Vyf en ‘n gewonde buffel is uiters gevaarlik met verskeie jagters wat al gedood is in buffelaanvalle. Ou veldkenners beweer dat ‘n gewonde buffel op sy spore teruggaan en die jagter sal voorlê.  Die Kaapse Buffels in die Addo Nasionale Olifantpark het hulle hele manier van lewe verander na hulle amper uitgeskiet is in die vroeër 1900’s en het so te sê nagdiere geword todat leeus weer in die park ingebring is in die vroeër 2000’s.  Voor die leeus se koms het jy amper nooit die buffels in die park gesien nie terwyl hulle nou weer algemeen in ooptes voorkom. 

Laaste, maar nie die minste nie is my gunsteling dier.  Die luiperd (Panthera pardus) was voorheen as bergtier of tier bekend en is ‘n lid van die katfamilie. Luiperds is na tiers, leeus en jaguars die vierde grootste groot-kat met die poema volgende grootste.  Luiperds is nagdiere met ‘n volwasse luiperd wat ongeveer 60 kg weeg en’n algemene hoogte van 60 cm bereik.  Die luiperds in die noorde van Suid Afrika word baie meer gereeld gesien as die in die Ooskaap en Weskaap.

Black Rhino

After spotting lion on our evening game drive at Kuzuko Lodge, the next member of the Big 5 that we encountered was a Black Rhino about 15 minutes into our drive the next morning.  I haven’t seen a black rhino for ages, the last one being years ago in Addo Elephant National Park.  What a privilege to see this beautiful animal in its natural environment.  So sad that some idiots in the Far East think that it’s horn, which is made of exactly the same material as your nails, can be used for medicinal purposes and now drive the demand that leads to these animals being illegally poached for their horns.

Walking rhinos at Bucklands

Our morning game drive (the second drive of our stay) at Bucklands Game Reserve during the Mini vs Maxi trip basically had two goals in mind.  We wanted to walk rhino as well as giraffe with rhino being first prize.  Not long into the drive we pulled over for some welcome coffee at one of the lookout spots before our search continued.  There is a bit of a private joke involved in this stop which won’t be retold here to preserve some reputations.

Our search came close on a couple of occasions.  Werner, our excellent ranger, stopped at a couple of rhino toilets during the drive, always on the lookout for fresh dung.  Rhino always go back to the same spot and create dung middens to mark their territory and finding fresh dung would have meant that we were close.  

Werner picked up their tracks a few times but all a bit on the old side.  Not long afterwards the call we were waiting for came through.  The one female with her calf had been spotted and we headed straight over.
On arrival at the sighting we hopped off the vehicle after a thorough safety briefing.  We kept to the rules.  Walk in a straight line behind the ranger.  Stay quiet.  Keep your eyes open.  And always know where the appointed “safe” spot was and the quickest way to get there.  The rhinos had moved off by the time we got there, but we weren’t about to give up. 
Perserverence pays off and after a short search we found them in the bush.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the most photogenic sighting, but still an awesome experience viewing one of the Big 5 on foot.

Big 5

The Big Five was the phrase given by big-game hunters to the five most difficult or dangerous animals in Africa to hunt on foot. These days the Big 5 is high on the list of must-see attractions on a tourist’s list of things to do or see when visiting South Africa. I present to you, The Big 5.

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Lion (Panthera leo)

Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) (above) or Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Leopard (Panthera pardus)