Tag Archives: Ceratotherium simum simum

The exuberance of youth

We had plenty of wonderful sightings during our recent three week long holidays in the bush – we already shared much of it with you, and there’s yet more to come in the next few weeks – but this was probably the biggest highlight of the trip!

Late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, we encountered a white rhino cow and her small calf just where the road goes into and through a thicket of thorny trees. We followed slowly behind as they ambled along, until eventually there was a clearing in the vegetation, just at the spot where there’s also a broad bend in the road. Mom started grazing on the roadside, while her little one decided it was time for some fun. He started running like crazy, at times flying with all four feet off the ground, running circles around his mother and us, then slamming on the brakes in a cloud of dust. Several times he’d charge directly at our vehicle, stopping a meter or two in front of us, only to spin around again, running away at breakneck speed, likely hoping that our silver-grey Jazz was a playmate he could chase and be chased by. Of course, with mom keeping an eye on his antics from close-by, there was no way we could join him for playtime. But inside the car we were laughing out loud in sheer delight.

Eventually he realised that his mom has disappeared around the corner, and he hightailed it to catch up. As we rounded the bend ourselves, we found him next to mom, totally breathless.

We were in awe of the fantastic Christmas present Hluhluwe-Imfolozi had just gifted us.

(you may click on the photos below to view them all in a carousel gallery)

Is there a reason for this white rhino to look so despondent on World Rhino Day?

World Rhino Day 2014

Is there a reason for this white rhinoceros to look so despondent on World Rhino Day? Ponder for a moment on the thought that there’s a good chance this white rhino, that we encountered in the Kruger National Park in August this year, may not be roaming around the wilderness anymore. There’s a good chance this rhino has been killed, its carcass left to rot under the African sun while its horns have already been ground to a fine powder somewhere in Asia.

The 22nd of September is World Rhino Day, a day to reflect on the large-scale slaughter these enigmatic animals are facing due to human greed and superstitious culture. This year alone, South Africa has already lost more than 769 rhinos to poaching (that was the figure as at 12/09/2014), following from 1004 in 2013, 668 in 2012, 448 in 2011, 333 in 2010.., well, the trend is clear.

It is also another chance to express our deep gratitude to those brave men and women out in the bush, fighting a war against the decimation of our wildlife, putting their lives on the line so that black and white rhinos remain a feature of Africa’s natural heritage for generations to come.


Southern White Rhinoceros

Ceratotherium simum simum

White Rhino (13)

It’s hard to imagine a more prehistoric looking large mammal alive in the world today than the white rhinoceros. Being one of our favourite species, we cherish every sighting we have of them while exploring the wild places of South Africa.

It is thought that the white rhino got its name from its wide mouth – a miss-translation of the Dutch word “wijd” which means wide. Scientifically, the name “Square-lipped Rhinoceros’ is probably more correct, but not widely used. The white rhino uses its broad mouth to good effect, grazing as it does almost exclusively on short grasses, in contrast to its smaller African cousin, the black rhinoceros, which is a browsing species. After the elephants, the white rhinoceros is the biggest living land animal. They can stand over 1.8m (6 feet) high at the shoulder and bulls weigh up to 2,400 kg. Cows are lighter at up to 1,800 kg, while calves weigh between 40 and 60 kg at birth.

White rhinos prefer open, lightly wooded habitats with a good covering of short, sweet grasses and easy access to drinking water (they drink about 72 liters of water a day). They are by far the most social of the rhinoceroses, at times congregating in groups of up to 18, though normally much fewer. Adult bulls are territorial, and groups of cows and their calves range over the territories of several bulls.

Cows give birth to a single calf every 3 to 5 years. The calves are vulnerable to attack from lions and spotted hyenas, but healthy adults have little to fear from any natural predators. Most adults succumb to a natural death from injuries sustained in fights, freak accidents like getting stuck in mud, drowning or getting caught in bush fires, and during prolonged droughts. Sickeningly, poaching for their horns has recently become probably the biggest single cause of death for adult white rhinos, which would normally have a life expectancy of up to 45 years in the wild.

Today, the Southern White Rhinoceros is considered “near threatened“. At the start of the 1900’s, only between 20 and 50 animals remained, all of them in the Umfolozi Game Reserve (today part of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park). One of South Africa’s greatest conservation success stories is how the Natal Parks Board (today Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) and dedicated conservationists like Dr. Ian Player pulled these majestic animals from the jaws of extinction: by 2010 their wild population stood at an estimated 20,170 of which 18,800 were being protected in South Africa. Now, ever escalating pressure from poaching is threatening to undo their fantastic work. Sadly, the fortunes of the Northern White Rhinoceros, which historically occurred in the Sudan, the DRC and Uganda, is even more dire, with only four individuals remaining in the wild, having been relocated from a zoo in the Czech Republic to a conservancy in Kenya.

White Rhino (7)