Fancy being chased by a three toed monster – a rhinoceros? This large primitive looking mammal is as old as the hills – it was around over 5 million years ago. The white or square-lipped rhino is one of two species in Africa, its name deriving from the Dutch word “weit”, meaning wide. It is about eleven feet long and will stand five foot high at the shoulder, weighing in at over two tons. Some creature.
When we visited National Parks in southern Africa the warming given is that wild animals can be dangerous .. a slight understatement perhaps? – keep calm, keep your voices down and remain in your vehicle as you travel the dirt roads around the parks, stopping and watching the animals, birds, insects or reptiles as you come across them.
Rhino and oxbill .. http://www.game-reserve.com/south-africa_hluhluwe-umfolozi.html
The Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Game Reserves in Natal are the oldest conservation areas in South Africa, coming into existence in 1897. The Kruger Park being established the following year, starting life as a relatively unknown conservation area, before becoming what is now an internationally recognised national park, and one perhaps you have heard of.
Zululand has always been rhino country and the records of the old hunters are filled with accounts of their adventures with these great beasts. Both white and black rhino flourish here, though the Parks are mainly known for their white rhinoceros conservation programme. The colour description is a misnomer – they are both a rather dirty grey!
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve
The bifurcating river in the Umfolozi Game Reserve converges once again creating a huge tongue of land, 50,000 hectares in extent, which is among the loveliest bush country in Zululand, backed in the north by a high ridge of hills.
This area between the two rivers has always been frequented by wild animals. It is classic savannah country. The grazing is rich, the climate - warm to hot, with ample water – suited to most African mammals. Hunters had been kept away due to the tsetse flies and the rhinos (both black and white) were happily in residence – fortunately saved and conserved for us – the future game viewers.
Rhinos love the grassland and open savannahs where they find water holes, mud wallows and shady trees and tend to be more gregarious than their black counterparts. However they are rather ill-tempered and have been known to charge, without apparent reason – as their eyesight is poor, while their sense of smell and hearing are very good.
When attacking, the rhino lowers its head, snorts, breaks into a gallop reaching speeds of 30 miles an hour, and gores or strikes powerful blows with its horns. Still for all its bulk, the rhino is very agile and can quickly turn in a small space.
We were happily travelling round the Game Reserve keeping to the dirt tracks, some of which had been cut into the surrounding bushveld to give a relatively flat road surface. We’d seen lots of buck, giraffe, rhinos, elephant, zebra, jackal, vultures, cranes and more – just wonderful to be able to stop and admire these creatures.
We were returning to leave the Park by one of the more obscure single track dirt roads, which had been cut down into the savannah lands, we were going up an incline and in the distance the road was ‘blocked’ and wandering towards us was a white rhino.
I had to make a decision, I kept going for a little while, thinking that it might amble off – but no and its midriff was at the top of the road - I had not heard of a rhino jumping. So now the dilemma started, there really wasn’t much room to turn round, but I decided I had to – as I could go more quickly going forwards than I could reversing and there was time, as long as I didn’t get stuck.
A rhinoceros in the Umfolozi nature reserve
A three point turn became a ten point turn .. we made it and I was very grateful to be able to drive away. It didn’t seem concerned – but the thought of two tons of solidity with a horn colliding with me at 30 mph – made me not tempt fate!
This horn might only be compacted keratinous fibres, similar to hair, which is attached to skin rather than the skull. Rhinos are often seen with oxpeckers, called tick birds, eating away at any ticks they find, while warning the rhino of any danger.
I did find the fact that a saddle had been attached to a rhinoceros about 2,100 years ago in China very interesting, and wonder why and how. Is it true or is it symbolic? This little world of ours always ends up being smaller than we think ..
A bronze rhinoceros figure with silver inlay, from the Western Han (202 BC – 9 AD) period of China, sporting a saddle on its back
But how about a little rolling over with hippos? I watched this tumultous turmoiled tussle in a drying river, within a drought stricken Rift Valley in the middle of Africa. Hippopotamii 13 foot long and also up to five feet tall, weighing slightly less than the rhino at just under two tons, need enough deep water to cover them.
A hippo pod
When there’s a drought they huddle into the deepest pools all squashed together like great beached whales – and all is well until someone tumbles into the aggressive bull, and all hell lets loose .. the massive bodies jostle and heave against each other in a wave until the end of the line is reached and the last one rolls over – bish bash, squish squash, heaving body mass desperate to get into the water again. The perils of nature.
This post was requested by Davina of Shades of Crimson - as she had just written about being chased by a bear, when she was out as a youngster with her family on a horse trek .. it's a good read ... please go on over ....
Dear Mr Postman – thank you for delivering this. You must be getting sick of this cold weather – it is a bit much - roll on Spring! My mother is slowly improving and we just wait for her to get better as much as possible, and for her hearing to come back.
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories