Back in 2012 I stayed at Leopard Mountain Game Lodge situated in the Zululand Rhino Reserve. During that trip I made a conscious decision that anything I wrote, post visit, would have no mention of rhino sightings. I had spoken to guides at various lodges and even met with people working on the front line of the war on poaching. There was a strong social media presence criticising any photographs posted of rhinos, even those with no specific details included.
Every Friday I try and post a rhino photograph for #RhinoFriday. I give no details what so ever. In March 2016 I posted an image on social media of a rhino with calf. I asked the question underneath: “I wonder how mum and calf are doing?” Others also asked the same question.
I contacted the Zululand Rhino Reserve to ask them the same question. After exchanging several emails my questions were answered. After much mind searching and deliberation on my part and of course most importantly the blessing of the reserve. Here is the story up to date.
Its May 2012 and I am out with my guide Dylan, from Leopard Mountain Game Lodge, on an early morning drive. The day started perfectly with a huge red sky and we were starting to encounter many animals. We were also following the tracks of three male lions who Dylan suspected were a coalition of three young male brothers. When the tracks seemed to head off into the bush and away from the sand road Dylan found a suitable place for morning tea break. As he was pouring my tea I thought I heard something, that sounded large, coming from from some thick low thorn trees. I also thought I glimpsed a rhino. Dylan took a look but we could now see and hear nothing. I kept glancing up and suddenly out of the bush came a large white rhino. Following behind was her calf. We stood motionless as did they. I whispered and asked Dylan if it was ok that I took some photographs, he nodded his approval. As we stood either side of the game viewing vehicle, and much to my amazement, the two rhino casually walked towards us. Dylan now whispered to me “The wind is in our favour but if they get too close I want you to climb slowly into the vehicle.”
Mother and daughter were not stopping, all they did was break into a brisk trot. Dylan and myself exchanged a glance and I knew it was time to get back into my seat. The rhino passed us by almost close enough to touch. It was an unforgettable, emotional, moment that sadly I could not tell anyone about.
Here we are in 2016 nearly fours since the encounter. Now I contact the reserve for an update hoping its good news. What if it is the worst possible news, dead, even poached? Well I am delighted that the news is all good. It took several emails and several of my photographs to positively identify the rhinos in question. I cannot thank Kelly and Frances enough for their patience and dedication. They have bought me fully up to speed and emphasized just how important ear notching, monitoring and general conservation practices are.
The mother is rhino cow 111 and her daughter is calf 105. These numbers are purely down to the notches in their ears. Both rhinos are doing well and the good news does not stop there. 111 has a new calf!
I personally feel it is important to responsibly share positive news under certain circumstances. More so now in times where the majority of rhino news is extremely sad and more often than not distressing.