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Black Rhino

Rhino River Lodge takes rhino poaching personally

By Black Rhino, Conservation, Rhino River Lodge, White Rhino

The rhino poaching crisis is continuing unabated. All too frequently we are bombarded with violent images of rhinos slaughtered, survivors with their horns brutally hacked off leaving horrible wounds, and poachers shot dead during battles with anti-poaching units. The tragic headlines and images assault us almost daily. The news is important and the world needs to know. The world needs to see what is happening, but sometimes with this constant barrage, we end up becoming de-sensitised. We emotionally disconnect because it’s the only way we can handle processing the brutality that we are being shown. 

 rhino-and-calf

For me, this rhino war is personal. My home is Rhino River Lodge on the Zululand Rhino Reserve. So far, we have lost 11 rhinos to poachers on our reserve. The reserve is large, so I didn’t personally know all of those rhinos, but I did know a couple. These are animals that we saw every day, which form part of the fabric of life in our game reserve. They consisted of females that raised multiple calves through the years, and males who staunchly defended their territories. My memories of these animals, juxtaposed with images of the poaching crime scenes leaves me devastated.

rhino-river-lodge-rhino

My husband is actively involved in anti-poaching activities on the reserve, and he often risks his life protecting our rhinos. He spends time on patrol in the evenings instead of being home with his family. But he is just one of the many men and women risking their lives to hold down the frontline in this war.

white-rhino

We have a rhino that lives on our property that is a survivor of a poaching attempt. She was shot in the head and the bullet lodged next to her spine. Against the odds, she survived, but she is still fighting for her life and we are supplementarily feeding her to get her through the long, dry winter. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/rhino-river-lodge-takes-rhino-poaching-personally/#sthash.jVqs50Cr.dpuf

We have a rhino that lives on our property that is a survivor of a poaching attempt. She was shot in the head and the bullet lodged next to her spine. Against the odds, she survived, but she is still fighting for her life and we are supplementarily feeding her to get her through the long, dry winter.

lucky-the-rhino

I have a one-and-a-half-year old son who goes out with his father every day to feed this rhino. When he first started talking, every time he saw long grass he would grab handfuls and hold it out and say “rhino”. When he sees other rhinos on game drives, he holds out his little hand and waves them in, saying “come”. Come rhino, we will feed you, we will protect you.

lucky-rhino

We all need to realise that this rhino war is personal. Every time you see an image of a rhino slaughtered, remember the value of its life. We are all losing our heritage. Every time you hear news of a ranger killed protecting our rhinos, mourn for their mothers and fathers, wives or husbands, and for their daughters and sons. If you know a ranger, thank them and their families for their sacrifice. We are all losing a lot more than lives in this fight.

rhinos-kwazulu-natal

Every time you hear of a poacher killed, spare a moment to think that they too have innocent people that loved them – parents, spouses and children. We, every one of us, need the violence and death to stop.

rhino-river-lodge

The following video is the story of our fight against poaching in the Zululand Rhino Reserve. It is not unique – we are just one of many reserves out there fighting in the war against rhino poaching. While there is one slightly graphic clip of a crime scene near the beginning of the video, we have chosen to honour the rhinos that have lost their lives and the people dedicated to this fight rather than to present lots of violent images. This is my story. This is our story. This is your story.

Watch video here

Written by Shannon Airton
Previously published on Africa Geographic

The following video is the story of our fight against poaching in the Zululand Rhino Reserve. It is not unique – we are just one of many reserves out there fighting in the war against rhino poaching. While there is one slightly graphic clip of a crime scene near the beginning of the video, we have chosen to honour the rhinos that have lost their lives and the people dedicated to this fight rather than to present lots of violent images. This is my story. This is our story. This is your story. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/rhino-river-lodge-takes-rhino-poaching-personally/#sthash.jVqs50Cr.dpuf
Every time you hear of a poacher killed, spare a moment to think that they too have innocent people that loved them – parents, spouses and children. We, every one of us, need the violence and death to stop. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/rhino-river-lodge-takes-rhino-poaching-personally/#sthash.jVqs50Cr.dpuf
My husband is actively involved in anti-poaching activities on the reserve, and he often risks his life protecting our rhinos. He spends time on patrol in the evenings instead of being home with his family. But he is just one of the many men and women risking their lives to hold down the frontline in this war. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/rhino-river-lodge-takes-rhino-poaching-personally/#sthash.jVqs50Cr.dpuf

King of the Jungle

By Black Rhino, Frances Hannah, Game Drive, Lion, Rhino River Lodge

Stereotypes are way too simple, you know: black rhino are shy and retiring, the lion is the king of the jungle … ranger Frances Hannah explains that what you expect is not always what you get.
I was approaching a block of open plane grassland, the male lion and lioness were well hidden in the long grass but I could see the other vehicle on a sighting in the distance. I was making my way towards the other vehicle when a young black rhino bull stepped out of the thicket to my right and gave us a fantastic sighting, head held high, curious yet timid. Once he grew bored of our clicking cameras he moved back into the thicket of knob thorns and out of our view, or so we thought!

We carried on towards the lions; the male was sitting in eager anticipation; he clearly was waiting for something from the female that she was not willing to give him. As we were enthralled in the lion sighting I saw a dark figure come stomping out across the plane. Mr rhino was not putting up with coming second best and he was making a direct beeline for my vehicle. I changed gears to reverse, ready to get out quickly if needed, the young bull sniffed the air, he was out of range of the female lioness, but was about to walk straight past the male lion! My heart was beating as the ground between the rhino and my vehicle grew less and less. As soon as the bull got whiff of the male it was like a trigger went loose! The rhino bull turned suddenly to face the lion a mere 20 metres to his left and our majestic male lion became petrified and skulked low into the grass. The rhino bull gave one grunt and went full charge towards the lion! The male lion took off like a cat caught eating the pet budgie; the rhino was galloping behind him with no signs of giving up the chase!

The black rhino chased the male lion right out of the grassy planes, over the road and off into the next field where the rhino diverted off up the road. The male lion gave a few roars and moans, obviously feeling very foolish for being chased by a young rhino bull! When the male lion returned to his grassy rest spot, his ego bruised and reputation dented; he felt as if he needed to re establish his manhood, so he went up to the female with determination and all he got was a paw to the face and a very unwelcoming growl! Who did we say was the king of the jungle again??

The day we had a Big 4 sighting…

By Black Rhino, Elephant, Game Drive, Hippo, Leopard, Manyoni Private Game Reserve, Night Drive, Rhino River Lodge, White Rhino

It all started with a great black rhino sighting on our morning drive. It was a big bull, and he came right up to the vehicle to investigate us. I had to ask him very nicely to move away before switching on the vehicles ignition and getting ready to move off. He kindly obliged and moved off slowly, turning back at us every so often and just to check to see if we were still there. From there, we moved accross to Zen Zulu (our neighbours who we dropped fences with about 4 months ago) where they have these great open plains that the white Rhino love to graze. To our surprise, the open fields were full of Buffalo! There were about 3 different breeding herds and about 200 Buffalo in total, just grazing out in the open along with about 18 white Rhino scattered out amoungst them! After sitting with the Buffalo we moved off and spent some time with Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, and quite a few Warthog with their new little piglets, we called it a day and headed back home to camp. What a busy morning!

That afternoon we headed out again, kind of thinking that the morning drive was pretty much it, and it would be hard to top. My radio cackled to life, and I got a call saying that there were some Elephant out on the open plains where we had seen the buffalo and white Rhino’s that morning. Off we went, although I wasn’t so convinced we would be able to see them as our breeding herd of Elephant is not the most social and they move pretty fast! Well, we never saw the breeding herd, but we did manage to find a solitary bull Elephant just wondering around seemingly aimless. We caught up to him where he was just standing around in an open field where he promptly fell asleep on his feet without a care in the world! Every now and then he would shift positions and rest a different leg, or flop his big heavy trunk over a tusk. His eyes were closed and I swear if we were any closer we would have been able to hear him snore. After leaving the old guy in his slumber, we went across to the dam where our resident Hippo hang out. In the evenings they are a bit more active than usual, just before they go out grazing. They were playing with each other and chasing each other, and just generally bonding.

On our way home that evening we bought out the spotlights and we did a bit of a night drive hoping to catch a few nocturnal creatures heading out for the night. On the main road, not even a kilometre from camp, one of the guests who was with me asked me to stop because he had seen some eyes. I reversed a bit and shone my spotlight over to where he was shining, and lo and behold, sitting right on the main road was the Little Leopard! We watched her for some time as she moved into a herd of Impala (they knew she was around as they all started alarm calling) and then slumped down into the grass. We pulled up in our vehicles next to her and watched her while she groomed herself and lazed around for a bit. We left her like that and called it an evening – we prefer to leave a sighting the same way as we arrive on the sighting, with as little disturbance to the animals natural behaviour as possible. 
That was the day we had a Big 4 sighting!