Misheck came back the other day with some lovely rhino photos which I thought I would share with you. He was on his motorbike on his way to look for the Crocodile Pack of wild dogs when he met this mum and calf white rhino walking up the road.
Switching the bike off and keeping completely still as they approached meant they were not aware of him until they were quite close. At which point they checked him out for a while and then trotted off into the bush.
As is typical with white rhinos, the calf walked ahead of the mum. Interestingly in black rhinos, the calf normally follows the mother.
I’m sure most of you will be aware of the rhino poaching war going on in southern Africa at the moment. Sadly the Save Valley Conservancy is not immune from the senseleess slaughter and several rhinos have been lost this year, which makes a sighting like this even more special.
I’m deviating slightly here from the wild dog theme to publicise an art exhibition being held for an extremely worthwhile cause. A friend of mine in the Save Valley Conservancy, Lin Barrie, is an incredible artist as well as a dedicated conservationist and is holding an exhibition in South Africa next week in aid of rhino conservation. Entitled “My tears they came down”, this is a moving exhibition focussing on the plight of the rhino – both black and white – in Southern Africa today. Lin’s paintings were prompted by the death of a young rhino cow in the conservancy named Ice, killed with an AK47 in November 2008, a year after her mother met the same fate.
The Save Valley Conservancy was established in 1990 as a rhino intensive protective zone (IPZ). Twenty black rhino were reintroduced from the Zambezi Valley, and the number had increased to 140 individuals by 2005, illustrating the success of the conservation intitiative. Tragically, over the past three years, 33 of these magnificent and valuable animals have been poached for their horn, which is used in the Far East for traditional medicine. In neighbouring South Africa, 2008 saw a minimum of 76 rhino deaths, 37 of which were in the Kruger National Park. This is now a desperate situation that needs immediate focus and attention.
With the assistance of the European Commission (EC) a fund has been set up (under the auspices of the Lowveld Rhino Trust) to establish an anti-poaching unit and to improve the intelligence base which will increase the success in persecuting rhino poachers. However, this fund is established with the requirement that the conservancy match the funds… Lin’s exhibition, and other fundraising attempts are aiming to get support for this critical anti-poaching unit.
Lin is also passionate about the conservation of wild dogs, and their persecution by snaring is also a focus of many of her painitings. Needless to say any anti-poaching efforts, even if co-ordinated by the Lowveld Rhino Trust, will help reduce the threat to these incredible animals as well.
I know that most of you are in the States, but if anyone is in South Africa or has friends or colleagues there who might be interested in going to the exhibition, it’s on from 21st to 24th May at the White River Gallery, in White River, South Africa. There are of course also ways of donating to the Lowveld Rhino Trust without attending the exhibition and I have all the details if anyone thinks they may be able to help. Have a look at this Times article for more information. Any donations made through this blog can go directly to this cause as well, just leave a comment in the comments section.
Sorry to report that we still haven’t succeeded in removing the snare from that pup. I had everything organised, and Graham (who helps do the darting) had come up the night before. Misheck found a signal from the dogs at around 6:00 a.m. and we were all set to go. Just as I arrived to collect Graham though, we heard a report over the radio that a rhino had been poached in the south of the conservancy. Graham is one of the key players in the anti-rhino poaching efforts and so unfortunately had to rush off to deal with that instead. I went out anyway to see the dogs and thought it might be possible to do something to help the pup despite Graham’s absence, but unfortunately we couldnt get within range. We did however see the pup quite well at one stage and he is actually still looking okay – not too skinny and not really struggling to keep up so we may still have a chance with him.
On a more positive note, while I was waiting by a waterhole in the hope that the dogs would come back to drink and we could have a go at the pup, Misheck spotted a tiny baby warthog stuck in the mud. I’ll do another post on that once I’ve had a chance to download some of the pics, but we managed to pull him out and are still doing what we can to save him. So, while we failed on the pup, we at least may have save a baby warthog instead!