Walking up to the world’s second largest land animal
A hundred years ago the southern white rhino was thought to be extinct, until a small population was discovered in 1895. Today, the remaining animals are classified as Near Threatened. Mosi oa Tunya Park in Zambia is a refuge for a handful of white rhinos, and we were lucky enough to meet them. On foot.
We were picked up bright and early by our guide Chiwele in a jeep, and taken into the park, only a few kilometres from our hotel. Our main objective was to track the white rhinos, but we would see lots of other wildlife as we walked slowly through the untamed bush with Chiwele and the armed park ranger. From funnel spiders and bird life to a couple of giraffes, the African bush is never dull, but once the rhinos appeared they immediately stole all our attention.
We were in luck that day – they were all together in one place, resting in the shade of some trees. Their grey skin was painted red-brown after a recent mud bath. This protects them from the hot African sun as well as annoying bugs. We were only a few meters from the group when we stopped to observe them for a while as they walked around and interacted. The massive, prehistoric looking, yet strangely cute creature is a remarkable sight, especially up close in their natural habitat.
After the experience we were left with a deep feeling of thankfulness, and of hope that the recent increase in white rhino population will continue. Rhinos were once found throughout Eurasia and Africa, but their numbers have dropped dramatically due to human activities such as poaching for their horn which is prized in Asian countries for it’s imagined “medicinal” properties. But in fact, rhino horns are basically the same as finger nails, and holds no medical value what so ever.