There are some drives that stick with you for life…
We expected quite a heavy storm to hit us one evening. It looked very much like we might get hail, so tracker Ray Mabelane and I were about to head back to camp with our guests. We had been looking for wild dogs for most of the afternoon but with the winds now picking up into seriously strong gusts, tracking them became harder and harder. Having already turned for home, a guest suddenly spotted a female rhino with a sub-adult just behind her. I stopped to have a quick look with the binoculars and out of the corner of my eye as I was about to drive on, I saw a tiny rhino calf wobbling around in the grass next to the bigger rhino.
Ray and I looked at each other saying, “That’s new new!” implying this calf had just been born. We drove slightly closer, wanting to give enough space to the mother and her calf. We passed the afterbirth just a few meters away from us which got us all even more excited as it confirmed that this calf was literally minutes old.
There we were, storm rolling in and sitting with the tiniest rhino calf any of us had ever seen.
Watching it wobble its way around its mother and still searching to find where to suckle made me very emotional; a moment of realizing exactly why I do what I do. The setting of witnessing that against the black stormy clouds slowly covering what was left of the blood-red sky is an image I will cherish forever.
It wasn’t over yet though.
Out of the blue, two wild dogs showed up. I will admit I panicked for the safety of the calf but the mother was up immediately, chasing off the dogs, who ran a few metres, fed on the afterbirth then ran off. I couldn’t believe everything that was happening around me. I still can’t.
We didn’t pay too much attention to the wild dogs as everyone was so fixated on the calf, which in itself sounds crazy as wild dogs are so rare!
Soon after the dogs ran off the mother rhino lay down giving the calf another opportunity to find where to suckle. The rain started to come down hard, yet we hardly noticed it. We were mesmerized by what nature had provide us with. After we were all thoroughly soaked and darkness was nearly upon us, we drove off as everyone took in all that had happened. Something so small yet leaving such a big impression on all of us that day. I managed to get a short video of the mother and her new born. I hope it brings some joy to you today…