The Great Rhinoceros(es)

As I stated in a prior post, when I went on safari in Tanzania, I was not fortunate enough to see any rhinos in the parks that we visited. Sadly, the rhino population within those parks is pretty small and continually threatened because of poaching.  For some reason, in China, people greatly value rhino horns and are willing to spend to dollar to get them, keeping this species continually threatened.

Thus, when Headman asked me on our first day at Shamwari which animals I most wanted to see, I told him that I really wanted to see a rhino.  No more than fifteen minutes later, we were inside the reserve and Headman spotted a dominant male bull White Rhinoceros. It was the first animal that I saw in Shamwari and his likeness is the one you see in the two pictures above. Shamwari fights an incredibly good fight against poaching on its reserve, and has only lost one rhino to poaching, due to its diligent efforts. Shamwari provides a safe place for rhinos to live, reproduce, and just be rhinos. 

At first, we were seeing mostly White Rhinos. They are grass eaters and live on the open plan, and thus are easier to spot.  You can distinguish white rhinos by their flat lips (because they are grazers) as opposed to the pointed top lip of a Black Rhino, and because they are larger than Black Rhinos. Their horn shapes are a little different from Black Rhinos. They are less aggressive than Black Rhinos because they are less territorial (although, dominant males are still territorial). Interesting fun fact about White Rhinos – they don’t just poop where they stand like  elephants do, rather they have designated communal bathroom areas where all the rhinos in the neighborhood go to poop, called middens. That is how a dominant male who lives alone can tell which females may be ready for reproduction. He catches the smell at the community loo.

At Shamwari, we were lucky enough to see a young white rhino calf, just a couple of weeks old, with his mum:

Here are some of the other White Rhino that we saw:

Finally, on our fourth day at the park, we found some Black Rhinos to observe. Black Rhinos are more likely to dwell in the forest, as they eat trees, which makes them more difficult to spot. Also, they are smaller than white rhinos, but don’t let their size fool you, they are much less friendly. They can be pretty aggressive, and Headman told us their unpredictability made them much more dangerous to see. Headman had been chased by black rhinos before. They are also far more endangered too. Don’t these rhinos just look more menacing?

 

They are such majestic and powerful creatures. It makes me sad to think of them reduced to corpses because of some bizarre, scientifically incorrect notion of their horn having medicinal powers. 

We started our visit to Shamwari with rhinos, and we ended our visit with rhinos too.  On our last game drive, on our last morning, we watched a group of white rhinos as the last animals we saw in Shamwari.  They were muddy from the rains that had struck Shamwari the day before, but they still looked so beautiful perched on a misty hillside.

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