November 2021

Front end loader black rhino encounter

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Front end loader black rhino encounter

I’ve found that the best way to boost your black rhino mojo is by getting up really early. On this morning I picked up a staff member’s little family – mom, dad, and their two young sons, at about 05:30, and headed for the Ganyani area. There was a beautiful low mist shrouding the land and colouring it in a pastel palette.

We spotted this black rhino cow in an open area, some way off, I got my camera ready and we reminded the youngsters to keep quiet, sit still and keep calm – and they did just that.

The black rhino cautiously approached at a steady walk, then a little trot, then an abrupt stop. She would lower her head and horns like a front end loader trundling along, then lift them skyward to peer at us with her dark eyes. This went on and on until she was right next to the vehicle – too close for photos. She would study us quizzically, then turn on her heals and canter off. She did several of these investigations, each time from a slightly different angle, until she was satisfied that she’d seen enough of us and went on her way. At no time was she overly threatening, but at the same time every one of us, including the little boys, knew we needed to stay calm in order for her to feel unthreatened.

In sending these photos to our Resident Biologist she was able to identify the rhino by her ear notches. She let us know that the cow’s name is Ganyani. (Ganyani means “wild dog” in Shangaan, but she is named after the Ganyani area rather than the dogs!) She is a playful 3rd generation black rhino cow of nine years old, and hasn’t had a calf yet which is very late for the standards documented here on the Malilangwe Reserve. Ganyani has gained a reputation of running up to vehicles and performing.

Running up to our vehicle and performing was exactly what she was doing! She is in excellent condition and will, of course, stay closely monitored by our various teams.

After the exhilaration of this highly endangered, very special, animal-form front end loader we did a drive around the central parts of the reserve, purposely finishing off in an area where earth works were underway with tractors, trailers, diggers, excavators, bulldozers and real front-end loaders because, after all, when you are a little boy no sighting, no matter how rare, beats big mechanical earth moving machinery!

Black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) are also known as hook-lipped rhinos because of the hook shaped upper lip – so clearly visible in this image.
The name differentiates it from the white rhino, so named for the wide flat upper lip. Somehow “wide” morphed into the word “white”, and wide-lipped rhinos became known as white rhinos, and their opposites, the hook-lipped rhinos became known as black rhinos.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
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