This morning Stefan the assistant game warden at Olifants West Game reserve and I began the day tracking rhinoceroses using radio telemetry. Stefan started telling me about the 9 different rhinos that are currently residing within the game reserve; each with their own name and radio collar… and all donated by WWF. Apparently, this particular, game reserve has not had a significant breeding population of black rhinos since the turn of the 19th century when the English settlers of the region would just shoot the indigenous population “just because”. At this point in time the game reserve is charged with the safety and well-being of the black rhino population.
After being introduced to the finer points of radio telemetry triangulation we began surveying a portion of the 60,000 acer game reserves in search of “Duchess”. We tried 4 different locations; all within here normal territory with no signs of her presence.
That afternoon we headed out again into the savanna bush (very thick this time of year, as this is the beginning of the rainy season and just last evening there was a flash flood warning by the head game warden of the region…with little to no rain to show for it. With much better luck this morning, the very first scanning point we managed to pick up a signal from one of the black rhinos. We then moved to a separate location nearby to triangulate the rhino’s position. It was at this point, Stefan informed me that this particular rhino has had a “C” sighting (class C is a triangulation, Class B is a non-visual sighting and a class “A” is a visual sighting) just 24 hours prior at the same exact location. Stefan decided that he wanted to get a closer look and stepped out of the rover just to make sure this rhino was still in good health being that she was in the exact GPS location as well. I then asked, “what happens if the rhino start after you?”. “Well” Stefan answered, “that’s when you find a good climbing tree, and I’ve been treed a few times already, so that’s why you’re staying in the rover”. Soon after Stefan went looking, he returned and we both drove into the thick bush, then off to our right I could barely make out the moving legs of a rhino behind two shrub trees. I personally was impressed, but I’m sure the best of this adventure is yet to come.
Returning to the leopard’s view base camp we came across two sparring male giraffes displaying many facets of dominance, I was able to film the behavior of the more dominant male backing up into the subdominant.
While gathered at the Leopard’s view outside dining area after the sun went down, Nichole, one of the other interns at the game reserve spotted a black rhino passing buy the lit watering hole located 500 yards from the dining area. This experience only lasted about 2 min and I was unable to gain any film. Though only about 45 minutes later “Big Boy” a 15-year-old male lion strolled up to the same watering hole while you could hear the gazelle alarm calls going off in all directions around him. “Big boy” proceeded to drink from the watering hole for the next 8 minutes; afterward proceeding to walk into the darkness, in our direction. Right at this point I shined a light in his direction and easily managed to make out the glow from his eyes slowly coming in our way. After about 15 minutes passed, “Big Boy” and the other competing male lions in the area, began to call one another displaying their presence. Right now, it’s late, about 11:00pm and I can still hear “big Boy” in the distance as I write.