Have You Ever Tracked a White Rhino?
For many visitors to the bush, the art of tracking and following an animal is both mystical and fascinating to experience. One of the oldest known art forms, tracking is as ancient as man itself yet today it is a diminishing aspect of indigenous culture which is being kept alive by the Tracker Academy. In this series of posts, sponsored by the Tracker Academy, we aim to help you understand how to identify and follow tracks when you are on your next safari. Of course, there is no substitute for experience and so we encourage you to come and visit us at Londolozi and spend time with our trackers who have over 120 years of experience combined…
One animal of particular interest ( unfortunately for the wrong reasons most recently) is that of the White Rhino. Owing to its distinctive and large track as well as its mild mannered temperament, the White Rhino is one of the best species to practice tracking and following with. Here are a few other points of interest to keep in mind when next you get out of the vehicle to begin tracking a white rhino with us at Londolozi.
- It has three distinct toes – a large middle toe with two smaller outside toes. The nails on each toe generally show up clearly in the track.
- In hard substrate it is often the nail of this large middle toe that shows up clearly
- The white rhino has two indistinct lobes on the back of its heel – this being different to the black rhino, which only shows one lobe on its heel, although there is a slight indentation on the heel that is mostly difficult to see.
- The outside toes of the white rhino sit closer (higher up) to the large middle toe. The black rhino’s outside toes are smaller and are situated further away (lower down) in the track.
- The white rhino’s track is larger than that of the black rhino.
- Both species have a medley of ‘cracks’ that crisscross randomly on the underside of its track, which is unique to each particular rhino, making it possible for trackers to identify individuals.
- The length of both front and hind foot is approximately 300mm.
- Male’s front tracks are bigger than that of the females.
- The hind foot mostly half-registers (steps partially over the front track) in a normal walk. They tend to walk duck-footed ever so slightly.
- The sounds of the rhino sighing, snorting or a thorn bush scraping down the tough pachyderm’s hide are all common when tracking these beasts on foot. Oxpecker birds that sit on rhino to feed on external parasites will call, and occasionally, they will fly up in alarm if they spot you before the rhino does. This always alerts the rhino, which will invariably run off snorting and crashing through the low bush – not a good result for a tracker who wants to locate the animal and leave without it knowing he was there.