Skip to content

SANParks.org Forums

View unanswered posts | View active topics






Post new topic This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  Page 1 of 2
 [ 30 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:57 am 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
CHASING PHANTOMS I

The early morning breeze still carried the memories of a bushveld winters night. That evening around the fire we had heard their distant echoes, as they were proclaiming their territory.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could see them tomorrow?" was followed by a quick "You must be crazy!" The laughter and jokes subsided as everyone drifted in to their own thoughts and apprehensions.

Now we were heading in to the bush, all armed with a new shot of confidence brought about by the warm rays of sunshine on our backs. I had the route planned. We would head up the Olifants river and then swing back past the koppie, reaching camp via the old elephant highway.

The first roar changed everything.

I found myself making a 90 degree turn away from the river, followed by the jittery group. We headed up the valley in the direction of the roaring which had now become a duo. They could not be too far, not much more than a kilo in front of us.

Reaching the top of the valley I could hear them roaring just over the rim of the hill. I quickly stopped and briefed the group on what to expect and made sure that everyone was comfortable with the approach. Then we pushed over the rim to have a look ...

Nothing ...

It was as if they had melted in to the bush. Perplexed we stood for a while ... listening.

Judging the direction in which they must have moved, I started looking for spoor. Only the faintest marks confirmed my suspicions. But this would not stop us! We now had a mission. These boys would not escape!

It was not long before we heard them again. But they were moving at speed and had left us behind, puffing to catch up. Three, four times I would think that we were about to meet, just to find out that they had again left us in their dust.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but slowly my thoughts started wondering. Why are we not catching up? Why are they moving so fast? What is happening in front of us? Something was not quite what I would expect.

The lowveld sun was getting hot and the group had now travelled several kilometres at "almost" lion speed. The early excitement had now dissipated in to quiet resignation. I realised that we needed to catch up pretty soon, otherwise we would have to abandon the chase and start the long walk back to camp.

This time the roaring was different. I could make out four, perhaps even five lion. From where we stood it sounded as if they were no more than 500 meters in front of us, but dispersed over an area. Was it the pride coming together?

I knew the area ahead, and realised that we would be moving in to a dangerously thick wooded area, if we don't catch them now. This was our last chance.

Pushing forward I rallied the group and we started climbing a gentle hill. The top would offer us the best opportunity to see our quarry. Again they became quiet, almost as if they were playing with us, watching us.

Scanning the bush in front of us with every pair of binoculars, every blade examined, we realised that the phantoms had once again eluded us.

The route back to camp was filled with unspoken questions. Were they playing with us? Why were they so vocal? How close had we really been?

......

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:24 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
CHASING PHANTOMS II

That evening around the fire was quiet. The boys seemed to have departed the area, and but for one far off echo, we heard nothing. Everyone was brave in reflection and no one would admit any hesitation in the morning's chase.

The next morning saw the group gathering for a new adventure. As soon as it became bright enough we were on our way. I chose a different direction and hoped to find some of the regular game, since nothing was to be seen during the previous day's chase. Only a fool hardy kudu or giraffe would remain in the area where a group of humans were stumbling after some very loud lion.

Having travelled no more than a kilometre we started going down the slope in to the next undulating valley. The first roar brought a smile to my face and a ripple of excitement in the group. Was this to be our day?

Little were we to know, that this would be a repeat of the previous day. Us chasing the roars which always seemed just over the next crest. But during the chase I started putting the picture together, all the bits and pieces of the past day falling in to place.

Clearly this was unusual behaviour for lion. Lion specialise in lying around and sleeping during the day. Seldom will you hear them and very seldom will you find males moving at such speeds. Unless they had reason, that is. The tracks and the roars also started to indicate that there were two groups involved. Clearly it was a battle for ownership between two coalitions of males. The three resident males were battling intruders, in an epic battle for survival.

The lion were not running from us, we were merely chasing after the battle, which was happening in full fury in front of us. Spectators in a battle for life and death.

We had reached a high plateau, and the hazy lowveld bush lay at our feet. Somewhere down there the battle would come to a conclusion. We were spent. Two days of chasing this battle had drained our energy, and we knew that it was time to return to camp.

...


_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:10 am 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
CHASING PHANTOMS III

We slowly started to descend down the steep incline of the plateau, all the while aware that we may still be watched. Then with the sun burning down on us, we changed direction to circle back to camp. Disappointed I tried my best to spot an elephant or buffalo, so that the group would at least have seen something besides the few antelope which had scattered in front of us during the chase. But the bush seemed empty.

Nearing the camp, I could feel the group behind me starting to loose concentration as they were hot and tired and the adrenaline had worn off. From the last koppie before the camp, an alarm call caught my attention. The baboon lookout at the top of the koppie was not happy, and though he had us in sight, his attention was directed more towards the slight rise leading away from the camp, perhaps five hundred meters away and slightly to the South of the camp.

In my mind I started the debate. Do I turn away from camp to investigate or do I lead my tired group in to camp, where they would welcome a shower and a great breakfast?

Well obviously, and to the confusion of the group, I made a turn to the South heading away from camp and started the ascent. The group started spreading out, and I stopped to bunch them closer. I told them that I believed that we could possibly still see some lion, but ... they had heard that before! They were tired and disinterested, and immediately started spreading when we moved on.

Then I got that feeling. I knew they were close.

We moved further up the rise heading towards the little valley on the other side, which I thought could offer them a hiding place. We were in the open, but the bush in front of us was thick. I could see nothing though I knew they must be there in front of us somewhere. Every nerve in my body was looking for that flick of a tail, or those little round ears.

A Swainson's spurfowl exploded from the bush to the right of where we had just passed. I turned to face the thick bush. I could not see a thing, but I knew that we had found them.

And then they were there! The boys we had been following for two days made a quick appearance as they broke cover some thirty meters from us, and started running down the valley. We could only catch glimpses of them, but these were sweet moments of joy. The phantoms had turned in to two majestic kings, fighting for a kingdom. The younger one was a huge blond male, and the older one was much darker.

Image

As we stood watching their retreat, I wondered what the future had in store for them.

Moments later they became phantoms once more, and we turned in to camp. Our chase had come full circle.

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Last edited by Imberbe on Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:32 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
Up a tree for the night

Oh boy! Is this going to be uncomfortable or what? Spending the night up this tree, hanging on in fear of silent predators which are scarcely detectable with day loving eyes!

It is strange how darkness brings out the worst fears in us. During the day we travel Kruger’s roads with impunity, lording it over the animals in our noisy vehicles. We don’t even give a moment’s thought to our own vulnerabilities. But at night things change. You become small, vulnerable to the slightest mistake.

They say that lion become fearless, sensing that its’ old mortal enemy is weak, almost blind when darkness falls. But the real animal which brings fear into ones’ heart is that iconic night hunter, the leopard. It happens in an instant, often without the victim even realising that death is but a breath away. The ultimate night time assassin.

With the sun silently drowning in a pool in the Sabie river, we enter the twilight zone. The last francolin has fallen silent. Desperately my eyes fight the losing battle, trying to drink in the last rays of light ... just in case something is approaching.

Finally accepting defeat, I give the old male a last fleeting glance. Nonchalantly ignoring us he scrambled up the huge Jackal berry we chose for our sundowners and is now camped up in the highest branches, surrounded by his restless troop.

Good night old man, I hope you have a restful, if somewhat uncomfortable night.

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:55 am 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
A LESSON LEARNT

The morning had been slow. We started walking from Manzimhlope water hole and headed up a clearly trampled game path, which closely followed a small drainage line heading North West. Seeing plenty of rhino spoor, we expected to meet some of these gentle giants. But clearly that was not to be.

After some considerable time I decided to cross the drainage line and head across the open veld in the direction of a small river, where I hoped to find some water, and possibly some animals. Soon we saw the ground hornbills flying up in to a tree at our approach.

After giving us a suspicious eye, they flew off with slow lumbering beats of their wings. White flashes highlighted their retreat.

Spotting a group of warthog, and knowing that they are not the sharpest pencils in the pocket, I decided to see how close we could get. We started walking in their direction, but just heading past them, so as to not give them the impression that we were coming straight towards them. They stood watching our approach as we came to within thirty meters or so. Always adjusting our direction to face them sideways, we started to circle them and moving closer all the time. After almost making a complete circle and getting as close as 20 meters, the penny finally dropped, and they sped away in full flight.

How they survive in the bush ... it's a miracle!

By this time it was starting to get warmer, and we headed in to an open area walking parallel to the river, in the direction of a nice shady spot which I knew lay ahead. The slightest of breeze had come up and was blowing in my neck.

I first thought it to be merely some big rocks, but a quick check with the binoculars confirmed that it was a group of six rhino in front of us. They were at least 400 meters ahead, lazily resting in a shady area. I quickly briefed the group on rhino behaviour and safety precautions and discussed our approach with the second rifle. We were concerned about the wind, and decided to circle around the rhino, to try and neutralise the wind. We would approach them from the back, where there was a nice rocky area which would give the ideal viewing platform.

Moving forward, we had not yet travelled thirty meters in our effort to circle the rhino, when I suddenly noted a change in their behaviour. They restlessly started milling around, and then in an instant stormed away from us, leaving only a dust cloud behind as they crossed over the ridge.

I always knew the theory of the importance of smell in the bush. But never before had I seen such a clear demonstration of the incredible power of rhino olfactory abilities! I could not for a moment believe that it was possible for the animals to smell us at that distance, but that was clearly the only explanation for what we experienced.

As the last rhino disappeared over the ridge, I decided to make a mental note or two:
1. Animals can smell .... very well!
2. Never forget this!

Little was I to know what difference this lesson would make just a day later ...

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:37 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
Somewhat disappointed by the disappearing rhino's, we moved on. Having passed the spot where the rhino should have been, I got my second lesson for the day.

Some shapes jump out at you. After having had experiences with these animals, their shape just gets fixed in to you memory. Without thinking, without even realising what you see, you just know that they are there.

Meeting big male lions on foot is always a special occasion. But very often very fleeting.

He was lazing in the sun some fifty meters in front of us on the other side of the river bed, looking away from us. The back of his mane was dark, almost black. His magnificent body was glistening golden brown in the sun. And he was unaware of us. I knew we had a beautiful sighting and that we could get quite close.

I quickly gathered the group to point him out. Some saw him quite quickly, but most battled to see him where he lay in the open. This is when I learned my second lesson.

Humans are noisy!

Despite my best efforts the level of noise rose considerably, and within moments the male jumped up and turned to face us. Suddenly he was joined by a second male, which had been lying hidden from view behind a small bush. One look was all that was needed for them to follow the example the rhino had set. They were off at speed, glancing a last time over their shoulders, before entering a hidden part of the river bed.

Somewhat frustrated by the spoiled opportunity I marshalled the group and we made good pace to try and get a second glimpse. But they were gone from view, probably watching us from some hiding place.

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:20 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
Having a break after our lion and rhino adventures.

Image

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:22 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar
Award: Quiz Whiz of the Year (2013)
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:22 am
Posts: 21627
Location: Midway between the infinite and the infinitesimal!
Award: Musketeer of the Year, Quiz Whiz of the Year (2012)
Oh yes, humans - especially the latest brands - are very noisy. :cry: It's amazing how sound carries in the bush.

I am somewhat surprised, IB, that a predator of the quality of the lion can fail to see your group at a distance of only 50m, especially as people do not tread as carefully as animals. Why did they only know of your presence when they heard you? I thought animals were more astute than that.

_________________
EVERYBODY'S TR!
TR: A NEW DAY IS S-OWN
TR: NECTAREAN NICETIES OF THE NORTH
TR: PRIMEVAL PLEASURE

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." (Groucho Marx)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:34 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
I have found that many animals can be approached quite closely, if you do the basics right. Lion, especially when they are at rest, can be quite unaware of their environment. They don't have much to fear.

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 9:57 am 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
Elephant - difficult to approach, dangerous, but very rewarding when you have a good sighting.

Hippo - highly alert, dangerous when not in water, always be very careful.

Rhino - usually easy to approach if wind is in your favour, keep alert.

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:10 am 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
SPEAKING RHINO

Having rested up we started moving back to the vehicle. I took the group up the bank of the river, and then followed the river down stream. We had not moved far before my back up spotted a rhino standing in the river. We slowly moved forward and sneaked up to almost on top of the rhino. The group had clearly learned their lessons as well, and was dead silent. We could look down on him, where he was standing less than twenty meters from us. What a brilliant sighting! Perfect!

He was becoming restless, since he could see some movement. But because of our height, the position of the sun, and the wind being in our favour, he was not sure. I knew we were completely safe, since there was no way he could approach us up the steep embankment. He eventually started dancing the restless dance only a rhino can dance. Huge beasts who are nimble on their feet.

Suddenly he charged away from us down the river. Obscured by bush I could hear him rounding a bend and then charging up the side of the river bank, unfortunately exiting on the side where we were about to walk. I knew we would meet again.

I followed the river, carefully scanning the river bush for a surprise. When I eventually spotted him, he was standing out in an open grassy arrea, searching for us. This posed a bit of a problem, since the river was bending away from us, and we had to cross the opening.

After studying him for a while I decided on an open approach, not trying to hide from him. Should he identify us I judged that there would be enough escape opportunities open to him, so that he would not feel threatened. I led the group away from him, moving up and away from the river, to circle around his position, and planning to eventually turn back to the river.

Moving across the open area he started to shadow us. As we moved on he kept pace with us, slowly drifting closer and closer. I began feeling uncomfortable in his approach and decided to rather manage the situation than to wait on him to make a move. Approaching a nice guarri bush standing in the open, I indicated the group in behind the bush and moved towards the rhino.

This immediately caught his attention. He turned towards me and started ambling in my direction. With a snort he made his feelings known.

In my life I have studied quite a few languages. All with different levels of success, but usually not too spectacular. I have found that one learn a language the best, there where you use it in everyday life.

This was the morning when I learned to speak rhino. Later the group was to compliment me, saying that I had a certain flare with the language. The rhino certainly seemed convinced too, because he made a quick u-turn and charged away from us.

I however had my doubts. Clearly my explanations were not quite clear enough, since he charged further in the direction where we would meet again. The excited group however had no such doubts. Convinced that I just saved their lives, and impressed with my fluent rhino talk, they looked ready to charge a herd of elephant.

Moving on I was becoming a bit concerned. I knew that should we meet again, he would be very agitated, and could act aggressively. We kept a sharp eye out for him, and it was not too long before we could see him running out in front of us. Every now and then we would see him crossing an open area, but running in no set direction. He was clearly still a bit flustered, but luckily he eventually decided to cross the river and move away from us.

It seems that even in the bush it often helps to rather talk your way out of trouble.

But not always.

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:08 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
Meeting buffalo on a walk can either be very scary or one of the nicest experiences. It all depends on the circumstance and the buffalo involved.

This group we met on an afternoon walk. At first they were, typically buffalo, a little alarmed and started milling around. But we were on an open grassy area, and they soon realised that they were quite safe and we meant them no harm.

Image

After grouping together, they all stood and faced us. This wall of horns can be quite intimidating.

But after a few minutes all started to relax, and we could sit on a fallen tree and watch them for a while, before we moved on.


Image

Image

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:22 am 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
When talking no longer helps

At times you get a strange feeling before you start a walk.

It is a feeling that something out of the ordinary will happen on this specific walk. I remember getting that feeling the first time I met wild dogs on foot, and before the meeting with the lioness described in my first posting. It is a feeling you don't share when you get it, out of fear of making yourself look silly. It is also something you don't share afterwards, since it creates the impression that you are embroidering on a story. It is a feeling of excitement and anticipation.

This time I had quite a different feeling.

For months I had a specific walk in mind, which would take us through a beautiful area of open plains with large marula trees spreading their branches like huge umbrellas. Picture perfect! Today was to be the day. But the person I needed to assist in driving the vehicle to the pick up point, informed me that he was not available. This threw all my plans in to disarray, and with the group already getting on to the vehicle, I had to make alternative plans.

I headed to a lovely walking area, which I knew well. But even while alighting from the vehicle I had a wary feeling. I knew that I did not want to walk there.

Time was not on our side as I knew it would be getting dark early. I also knew that I would have to walk through an area with thick guarri bush. I was uncomfortable.

.........

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 5:16 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
We headed straight in to the thick guarri bushes, making our way to the Nwatindlopfu river. The area was getting thicker as we neared the river bed. We reached the bank of the river, which was a flat and broad meandering stretch of sand, covered with a lot of thatch grass painted golden yellow by the afternoon sun, some reeds and the odd wild date palm.

At the base of the opposite river bank some sixty meters up river I could see two large grey forms, planted like ancient boulders in the riverbed. Only the flicking of an ear betrayed the fact that these were no boulders.

The two rhino were lying half asleep, facing away from us. I quickly checked the wind, and it was blowing in our direction. I knew that this would be an excelent opportunity to get really close to these magnificent beasts, without them even being aware of us.

We crossed the river bed without them spotting us. I then lead the group to within forty meters of the rhino and had them sit down at a spot where I knew we would be quite safe and where we could clearly see these two special animals. The river bank was just steep enough between us and them, so that they would not be able to make a direct approach. "Perfect" my back up whispered in my ear.

We spent a few short minutes watching them before the oxpeckers started raising an alarm. They got up and started moving. They were still very relaxed, and gave us some excelent sightings.

First they moved to the centre of the river bed. Typically the case with white rhino, the smaller one which was a juvenile calf of probably three and a half years of age took the lead. She started grazing in our direction moving down stream.

Image

Unaware of our presence they kept on coming closer and closer.

Image

In my mind I was egging them on to stop and turn away from us. I knew that once they had passed the point opposite us, the wind which had been in our favour would quickly turn against us and start blowing our scent towards them.

This did not concern me too much however. I knew that their probable reaction would be to run away from us. But I knew that this could lead to an explosive situation.

As humans we are a visual species. Most of life is experienced through our eyes and ears. We understand very little of the power of scent. Animals live by scent.

I knew that once the rhino started to run down the river bed they would run in to the scent barrier we left when crossing the river. This would be like running in to a brick wall, and would confuse them. I realised that anything could happen from there on, as their chosen escape route would be blocked.

Still they kept on coming.

Image

As soon as they passed our position, I slowly got up from my sitting position. Ready for what was about to happen ...

_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Last edited by Imberbe on Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Memories in a Leadwood fire
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:35 pm 
Offline
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
User avatar

Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Posts: 14283
Location: Pretoria, RSA
As the rhino strode past our position I slowly got the group standing up, trying to ensure that I remain between them and the moving rhino. I tried to get the group moving in behind me, but a few of them were so transfixed by the close up rhino, that they simply were unaware of my hand signals. I could not afford to call, as the rhino were sure to react.

Suddenly the wind brought the message home.

There was a commotion in the river bed as the rhino whirled around, a few snorts, lots of fleet footed dancing. The message came across and the rhino turned and charged down river, away from us as I expected.

The group was heavily excited and was chatting away, each describing what had just happened, as if the rest were not there to see it with their own eyes.

I called the group members closer and all came standing around. I was however in no mood to chat as one of the group members were still lagging behind trying to grab a last photo of the retreating rhino. I called him closer but he was completely oblivious of my calling.

But his face told the story ....

As the rhino hit the place where we had crossed the river they swung around, and charged straight back. I could hear them coming like a freight train, now heading straight for us. This time there was no steep embankment to stop them, only a gentle slope which they were tearing up at full speed.

I don't know about speaking rhino, but I was screaming at the top of my lungs at the group to get behind a stand of three or four big trees just to the side of us. The straggling group member beat a hasty retreat and dove in behind the first tree, which I was by now standing in front of.

I was now addressing my shouts at the rhinos which were coming straight for us, with the younger one in the lead. The shouting convinced the younger rhino to swerve away to its left. But the adult cow came barrelling straight towards me. Suddenly I knew that shouting was no longer going to make an impact.

It became silent around me, but not far a lack of sounds and confusion. Behind me people were standing three in a row behind trees or diving in behind the nearest scrub. I was totally oblivious to this.

I could see her coming now less than twelve meters away and the realisation dawned ... today I am going to shoot a rhino.

There was no uncertainty ... the only question was when I was going to do it. Would I shoot her at ten meters as I was trained?

I found it ironic at the same moment. Here we are fighting a war against rhino poachers, and I am about to take one of these magnificent creatures down. The irony was hanging cold in my mind.

I was counting every step she was taking on our collision course. Somewhere in the whirlpool of thoughts I decided that I would only load at the last moment as there would be no second chance and at the same time I did not want an uncontrolled shot to be fired. I don't remember when exactly I took the rifle to my shoulder, only that I had her in the sights.

Now I was totally focussed on her. I could see her flaring nostrils as everything seemed to slow down.

At eight meters something small happened. I saw her body shifting. Hope came alive!

At seven she was starting to turn to her left.

At six her weight was shifting away from us.

At five meters I knew that this would be a good day after all. Reality went back in to full speed as she rushed past us and veered of in hot pursuit of her calf.

Everyone had his own story to tell ... but I felt only relieve for the mother and her calf. May they be spared the bullets of man.


_________________
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 30 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Goronta, PAPA SMURF, umtali1 and 4 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group

Webcams Highlights

Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Submitted by Stampajane at 15:23:13 Submitted by Anonymous at 17:51:32 Submitted by ritad at 18:37:33 Submitted by fenman5 at 19:29:04