Written by Ranger, Liesa Becker
Rhinos are by far one of my favourite animals to observe and I can never express enough how fortunate we are to still have the privilege to see them in the wild – as they were intended to be experienced.
Sadly, due to poaching for their horns, rhinos are becoming a critically endangered species by the day and it is our duty and responsibility to not only create awareness, but also ensure the survival of these incredible animals.
As a field guide, I turn into an absolute child on safari, when I come across specifically the white rhinos.
The name, “white rhino” is derived from having a wide (mispronounced – and declared white) mouth, which also indicates to their diet – which is grass and they are the only grass-eaters amongst the five existing rhino species. It has nothing to do with their actual colour, as both the black and white rhino have grey hides. There are, however, many other differences between the two.
But for now, I will be focusing on the white rhino.
The social structure and dynamic of the white rhinos is incredibly fascinating, as it can vary and change, with age, sexual status as well as territory, but even so amongst the still-existing rhino subspecies, the white rhino is considered to be the most social.
They can form groups of up to 15 rhinos at a time, notably females and calves but they are in no permanent sense herd animals.
Dominant males are solitary, unless encountering females in oestrous or of course coming across males challenging them for territory.
Dominant males will actively mark their territory whilst moving around, grazing and will even fight viciously for and over territory. Sub-dominant males will not mark their territory until it has been officially claimed and established.
It is quite something to observe a fight between rhinos. Because even though they seem calm for the most part when one sees them, those horns on their faces can become quite the sword when they feel threatened.
Even copulation can also be very aggressive, as females are not always to keen at first and the mating ritual can take anything from 10-20 days, where the male and female will move around and stay together for that time period.
A rhino’s horn is what they use to defend themselves, their young and their territory. They need their horns and they are not anyone else’s to take.
I have in the past witnessed a few vicious stand-offs and fights, and sometimes they really do injure one another and can even end each other’s lives. You can even see the visible wound on those thick skins sometimes. But that is nature and it does not happen too often. But no rhino should ever be robbed of its horn, for any gain other than a natural occurrence of the circle of life.
Here at Kapama Private Game Reserve, on which Jabulani is situated, we have an absolutely incredible anti-poaching team who patrol the reserve 24/7, have trained anti-poaching dogs, and keep an eye on each and every rhino without us even knowing it!
It breaks my heart that it has come to this, that an animal which should just be able to thrive and exist without any human interference whatsoever, which is why it is such a pleasure to see them!
Apart from being protected and monitored constantly, the rhinos are also micro-chipped, as well as ear-notched for identification purposes. Each rhino has a unique mark or more in their ear(s) for anti-poaching purposes, which also helps us as guides to identify the different rhinos on the reserve.