The Malilangwe Reserve is home to very healthy black and white rhino populations and, while black rhinos are more reclusive than white rhinos, every guest spending a few days at Singita Pamushana can be near guaranteed of having unrivalled wild rhino viewing.
The way we identify individual rhinos is via a system of ear notches. The notches allow a well-trained and equipped scout force to closely monitor each animal. Daily sightings are recorded and analysed by research technicians and the data is used to monitor the populations and guide management decisions.
That explained, some rhinos are instantly recognisable by their physical attributes. A white rhino cow is one of these and, as guides, we affectionately refer to her as Lancelot because of her enormous, lance-like, horn. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same substance as human hair and fingernails. Calves are born without horns, but within just a couple of months a tiny stub appears. With optimal nutrition, rhino horns can grow continuously by about 50 mm a year. Much of the rhinos’ success story here is due to the rich soils and diverse habitats they support, providing nutritious forage for both species. White rhino horns are larger and heavier than black rhino horns. They are used as weapons against predators and help mother rhinos to keep their calves safe. They are also used during encounters with other rhinos to demonstrate dominance or make a threat display.
In the next photo her horn turns to gold in the sunrise. In the third you can see a puncture wound on her shoulder inflicted by the horn of another rhino.