This blue marble

– and yet it spins

Rhinos! (and two very bad photos)

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rhinos-1One word: rhinos. No need to justify the crappy quality of these photos. Because when rhinos are around, you take pictures with whatever equipment you have, in whatever lighting conditions.

We who stayed at Halali Camp were fortunate to see the black rhinos every night at the floodlit waterhole. As the sun set, people gathered at the viewing platform of stone seats scattered here and there in an amphitheater fashion above the waterhole. It was like watching a living movie: people enjoyed drinks as the sun went down, the birds quieted, and the animals came out to drink.

The rhinos took their time each night hanging around the waterhole, gazing at each other, drinking, ambling, and drinking some more. The strange, slow, prehistoric animals have feet like the elephant, although they are clearly not related. From time to time the male rhino would turn his lips inside out and grin like a crazy horse. He was using his pheromone-sensing organ in his gums to smell the whereabouts of the female rhino across the waterhole – because he, like all rhinos, had very bad eyesight. To top off the show he would pee by squirting a spray backwards out from between his hind legs.

Apparently black rhinos are moody. I can confirm this. And these two hated the pride of five lionesses that shared the waterhole. The poor big cats attempted at sneaking up to drink when the rhino was still chilling around, but no such luck. Of course. They were ultimately chased around the bush by one very irritated rhino.

Namibia is one of the few countries where both black and white rhinos are conserved in their original, natural habitat. There are a little over 5,000 endangered black rhinos left in the world. That is many, compared to the 50 living individuals of white rhino in the 1990s. Today there are over 20,000 white rhinos living in Sub-Saharan Africa. And so it felt like witnessing a living wonder to observe the Southern white rhino by a waterhole during our night game drive. Hence the second crappy photo below.

The hyenas accompanying the rhino dashed over and began pestering it, just for fun. They danced around, trying to nip the rhino, expertly dodging its huge horn (apparently white rhinos are easily irritated, too). The rhino can gore a lion with its horn so a hyena or two is child’s play. Because the horns are more valuable than gold on the Asian market, Namibia has begun to remove the horns of the rhinos by sawing them off. The local authorities deem their chance of survival better that way, even if dehorned rhinos are at worse odds against the lions. The chance that a lion will attack a rhino is much smaller than the chance that a poacher will shoot it for its horns. And apparently a rhino will slowly grow his or her horn back. Such dire measures are taken even in Namibia to save the rhino, a creature from another age of our planet’s history.

The Southern white rhino has been saved from the brink of extinction by being introduced further up north to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and other countries. Some, like Uganda and Sudan, used to host the Northern white rhino until it was hunted down to 3 captive animals in Sudan, constantly protected by armed guards. Even this may not save the Northern white rhino, as the three individuals seem to lack the hots for each other and refuse to breed. Once the old male dies that will be it. Unless in vitro fertilization or genetic engineering can save the species. Thank goodness for biotechnology, in advance.rhinos-2(Etosha National Park, Namibia; July 2017)

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