November 2021

Pretty awesome

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Pretty awesome

Saseka (meaning ‘pretty’) is an unmistakable white rhino cow, thanks to her unusually shaped horn that dips low rather than curving up. Thanks to her instant recognisability she has become a firm favourite of many, and seems to be a real character too.

On this afternoon she was at a well-frequented pan, with her calf that’s near the age of independence. They were calmly ambling about and having a drink. A bull approached from some way off and invaded her space, and she became very agitated. She moved off, huffing and puffing, then sniffing the air, twisting her lips and bellowing. This went on for about 10 minutes, a real production, and the bull seemed a bit bewildered by it all. It’s not impossible that he was trying to approach her to ascertain if she was nearing a state of oestrus, or to drive off the calf to accelerate a state of oestrus.

What was clear was that Saseka had decided she was having none of it, still wanted more to drink, and that he needed to leave the water’s edge. She made quite a few mock charges at him, and then drove the message home with the charge you see below. Even one of the poor oxpeckers on her back fell over with the force of it, and the bull slammed on anchors sending dirt flying! With the status quo re-established she and her calf began drinking at the water’s edge again, and the bull respectfully socially distanced himself, rather demurely, on the other side of the pan and finished his drink.

What becomes more and more apparent is how complex and sensitive rhino dynamics are. The cow mentioned in the Overview that died, Njakeni, was treated for fighting wounds three years ago. Since then Rhulani, her six-year-old grandson, seldom left her side. It is believed he took on the role of protector, and even after her death he was seen to be protecting her body by chasing off hyenas and vultures.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
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