They are one of the most poached animal species in the world; the holy grail of the African bush.
Their prehistoric appearance makes you feel like you have stepped into a scene from Jurassic Park, sans the ominous music. However, instinct cautions you not to take this magnificent creature lightly. And how can you? Its mass of nearly 2000kg’s is a not-so-subtle warning to keep your distance, along with the deathly horns that protrude above its characteristic square lip.
Ironically the Southern White Rhino, one of the oldest land mammal species in the world, is unable to protect itself from a mammal so substantially insignificant in comparison to its resilient physique; human beings.
In the early 20th century, the Southern White Rhino was on the brink of extinction with as few as 20 individuals remaining in a single South African Reserve. Fortunately, numbers have increased between 19, 666 and 21, 085 individuals according to the Save the Rhino non profit organisation, making it one of the more prevalent species amongst the five rhino species.
With the ignition of the vehicle turned off and accents from various parts of the globe being drawn into the silence all that is left is the soft whispers of the grass as the female rhino and her calf graze their way past us.
So quiet. So peaceful.
No matter how many times you have the privilege of being in the presence of these animals the experience is no less magical. Unicorns with curves, as the quote so sweetly describes them.
And yet, despite such a blissful scene, one cannot ignore the reality that rhino species in Africa and Asia are at the forefront of illegal poaching.
Celebrating World Rhino Day
Images by Fred Oliphant