Black Rhino Tracking at White Elephant Safari Lodge

Posted by George on Thu April 16, 2015 in Ranger Diaries.

This is a vehicle- based activity in which we set out to locate Black Rhino, and under appropriate circumstances, approach these leviathans on foot, to truly appreciate their size, power and majesty. From the vehicle, we use signals received from radio collars worn by certain individuals, and the natural signs of spoor, dung and other evidence, to find the rhino.

Finding rhinos is by no means a certainty, as these beautiful animals natural habitat is thick bush, where they browse, rest, and shelter from the heat of the sun.   Even the animals fitted with radio transmitters sometimes elude us when they are wallowing or resting in dongas where the signal is disrupted.   Despite this, we have a roughly ninety percent success rate in finding the rhinos, and even when they cannot be located we still enjoy all the other animals and sightings during the drive, as we would with a normal game drive.

Once we have located the rhinos we exit the vehicle, and having first fully briefed the guests on the procedures for approaching the animals, and carrying a rifle for protection, we approach the rhinos in the most unobtrusive way possible.   The ideal outcome is that we approach the rhinos without their becoming aware of us and without changing their behaviour.    At all times our motto is “safety first”, so should it not be possible to approach safely on foot, we would view the animals from the vehicle.    Inevitably, the rhinos do occasionally notice our presence and show an interest in us, which can become quite exciting as they are curious animals, with fairly poor eyesight, and they will sometimes approach us.   At all times your armed and trained guide will be between you and the animal, and will hold your safety paramount.   These occasions are an opportunity to see first hand that the black rhino is not the vicious killer he is often made out to be, simply a big, curious animal who will turn and run away at the clap of a hand or the sound of a firm voice.

Most of our guests agree that approaching a black rhino on foot is an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience, and leave with a greater respect, admiration and understanding of these magnificent animals.   Bearing in mind the current problems with poaching and habitat loss there is no guarantee that the next generation will have even an opportunity to know these animals, let alone approach them on foot.    Part of our mission as guides is to educate and spread the word about the beauty and vulnerabilities of these animals, with the hope that it can help to protect them in the future.

Go well until next time,

George Greenslade, Head Guide.