A welcome surprise

Pamushana | March 2019

It ended up being a remarkably fortuitous morning as we had started our drive early to look for black rhinos. I drove to all areas with the habitats that black rhinos prefer – areas with shrubs and trees and dense thickets, but with no joy.

The Binya Road is a road that stretches from the northern to southern part of our reserve and is used to enter Gonarezhou National Park. The road can be busy with public vehicles accessing the park and we usually avoid it on game drives, but I needed to travel it for a short distance to access another area closer to the river.

On the Binya Road I saw what appeared to be a large walking boulder and reminded myself that boulders don’t walk! I could feel the excitement in my vehicle but it was also full of fear. It was a black rhino, and it was casually walking towards us as I stopped the vehicle at a distance and switched off the engine. I thought it was going to run away, but I was surprised by its nonchalant behaviour. Black rhinos have a reputation of being extremely aggressive, and readily charge at perceived threats, and will not hesitate to charge even when one is in the confines of a vehicle.

It was a brilliant sighting and photo opportunity. When he got within a couple of metres of the vehicle he contemplated us for what seemed an eternity, and then curled his upper lip and gave a few puffing snorts. I knew it was time to go and as I started the engine he turned, with his head low, ears flattened and tail raised and cantered off into the thick bushes.

By referencing his ear notches our Conservation team let us know he is a 13 year-old bull referred to as Tsonzo, and from his previously recorded movement he is normally seen near the Chiredzi River, which is where we were heading.