Posts Tagged With: nature

Respect the Rhino

Rhino attacks on humans are extremely rare. By nature they are mainly solitary animals and will only charge if feeling threatened, something more common in the case of a mother protecting her calf.

Animals rarely, if ever attack without warning. The key is to be aware of the signs they exhibit. In the case of rhinos, they will show their irritation with curled tails, snorts, or stomping/digging at the ground.

When they get irritated enough, the first charge is often a “mock” charge, stopping short of a full on attack.

We were once charged by a male rhino who was following a female and calf, in hopes of breeding. The warning given to us was a quick snort and prolonged stare in our direction. He charged at the vehicle but stopped short of any real damage.

Needless to say, we apologized and left very quickly.


The male in the front was hoping for further “romantic” pursuit with the female in the back. Unfortunately we were intruding. This was the last shot before he lifted his head and let his displeasure be known. photo: Fight for Rhinos

In the case of the rhino, and more commonly heard of elephant “attacks”, it is almost always the fault of humans getting too close and not respecting the signs of the animals.

Following nature’s rules is a matter of common sense.
1. Never get too close, maintain a respectful distance; especially in the case of a moving animal. If he is coming in your direction, don’t block the way.
2. Be quiet. The beauty of being in close proximity is in being a part of the environment. Do not make loud sounds or unnecessary noise.
3. Pay attention to an animal’s body language. Gauge the situation, if an animal is in musth or has a little one close by, back off.

Remember this is THEIR home. You are the guest.


In a more comical “attack”, this baby elephant flared his ears, shook his head and mock charged us, while his family continued to browse around him. photo: Fight for Rhinos





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The Amazing Lammie


Lammie resting in the shade. photo: Fight for Rhinos

There are no limits to the variety of residents taken in at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. With a specialty in cheetahs, they also house a feisty zebra, retired circus lions and poaching survivors Dingle Dell and Lion’s Den.

But in 2014 a special little rhino was brought to the centre; Gertje, or little G, as he affectionately became known. The orphaned little rhino was traumatized after witnessing his mother brutally poached. Even with the diligent compassion and nurture from his human caregivers, he needed something more.

At 3 weeks of age, Lammie was brought to the Centre and introduced to Gertje. The unlikely duo quickly formed a bond, following each other by day, sleeping together in the evenings.

Not long after, Matimba, another orphaned rhino was rescued and introduced to the duo. Once again, without hesitation, Lammie welcomed the new orphan, the odd little family grew to three.


Feeding time means three heads often vying for the same bowl. Lammie seems to have no concept that she is somehow the smallest of the three. Photo: Fight for Rhinos

This last year has seen the family grow again, with the addition of orphan rhinos Stompie and Balu. And with the photos of the quartet, as always she is a familiar face never far off.

gert matimba stompie balu lammie

Gertje, Matimba, Stompie, Balu and Lammie. Photo: HESC

She is not partial to rhinos, as she recently showed with her mothering skills of Amanzi, the baby elephant.

lammie with ele

Click photo for video. Lammie and Amanzi via Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre



Lammie photo: Fight for Rhinos

The now 2 year old lamb has been an integral part to so many lives; part watchdog, part companion, part mother-she is a special girl; playing a larger role in the rehabilitation of her endangered companions.

Although she seems to have no idea. She is simply content with her share of the love, always there to “help” clear the food bowls and receive her pat on the head.




















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Rain for Rhinos

South Africa is in the midst of the worst drought in recent memory. Five out of the nine provinces have been seriously impacted; Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Free State.

According to the South African Weather Service, 2015 was the country’s driest year since 1904 when record keeping began.

As watering holes dry up, and grasslands die, this has meant death for many of Kruger National Park wildlife residents.  Harsh and unforgiving,  yet a”normal” cyclic events that help shape the ecosystem,  one of nature’s ways of assuring “survival of the fittest”. 

rhino mud rescue caters news agency 1

A result of drought, this rhino became stuck in the dried watering hole on a South African reserve. Photo: Caters news agency

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After digging out a path, he was successfully freed. Photo: Caters news agency

But when species are endangered due to unnatural or manmade circumstances, the consequences of a drought become more devastating.

With only about 20,000 rhinos remaining on the African continent, a drought may have a massive effect on the future of the species.

At the start of the 20th century, with healthier populations, the ability to bounce back from natural disasters was almost a guarantee, nature taking care of itself.

In today’s world of poaching and land mismanagement; nature has our full attention; each full moon, every missed rain, could mean another step closer to extinction.

rhino pop graph 1900

Published 06/03/2014 at 673 × 423 in Why Rhinos?







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The heart of a rhino


Did you know the heart of a white rhino weighs approximately 22 lbs,

while the smaller Sumatran rhino heart is 10-12 lbs?

white rhino heart weighing 22 lbs

White Rhino Heart: William Perez’s Veterinary Anatomy Facebook

In comparison, an elephant heart weighs 26-46 lbs, and a human heart merely 11 ounces.

white rhino duo at Lewa

White rhino duo at Lewa Conservancy in Kenya

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Did you know?

Did you know baby black rhinos follow behind their moms, while baby white rhinos walk in front of theirs?

black rhino mom and baby lincoln park

Black rhinos at Lincoln Park Zoo

Dublin rhinos

White rhinos at Dublin Zoo

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Shooting the Rhino Wars

The following is video from Sky News, who has been given access to behind the scenes work in Kruger National Park. The first 3 minutes show the grim reality of a poaching. After, there is more light-hearted footage of the “babies”.

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The Bonding of Gertje and Matimba

Sometimes life throws two souls together at the right place and time, forming a lasting friendship, an unexplainable bond. That’s the story of Gertje and Matimba, the two orphan rhinos at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre.

These boys have both endured the trauma of losing their mothers to poachers in the beginning of their young lives. Gertje (also known as Little G) made headlines, as he pulled heartstrings. Found crying inconsolably next to his dead mother, he was brought to HESC over a year ago, bonding with his caretakers, as he was too heartbroken and afraid to even sleep alone.

Gertje was paired up with a sheep to provide companionship. With his own webcam, viewers could tune in to watch the two of them in his boma, as he slept, or more often; restlessly paced about.

gertje little

Little G, Gertje, being consoled by his caretaker soon after his arrival. photo: HESC

About 9 months ago little Matimba was rescued; he and his dead mother were found covered in mud, indicating at his young age of less than a month old, he had likely just enjoyed his first mudbath minutes before the poaching.

matimba little

Matimba, at just weeks old, when he first arrived in the centre. photo: HESC

In December of 2014, the two were introduced. Initially Gertje was less than enthusiastic; unsure what to make of this miniature replica of himself. It took him a couple of hours to become assured that the little bundle of energy wasn’t a threat, and as caretaker, Anri said only a couple of days “to completely accept each other”.

According to Anri, as the boys grow older, their natural instincts will kick in and they will grow less affectionate towards each other. Adult bulls are generally solitary and associate only with females in oestrus.

Regardless of what the future holds, their bond at the moment is deep and vital to their growth. In a perfect world, rhinos remain with their moms for 2-3 years before venturing out on their own. Their relationship is unusual and may not replace the nurture of “mom”, but it brings a bit of solace in an otherwise horrible circumstance.

gert and matimba on flattened termite mound

Gertje and Matimba enjoying their newly flattened termite mound. photo: HESC

*Fight for Rhinos is looking forward to our first visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in September. If you have any questions for the rhino caretakers on Gertje or Matimba, please email us at We’ll gladly find out.


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World Elephant Day

elephant world cartoon

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected” -Chief Seattle

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Mixed Messages are killing our elephants and rhinos

To crush or hoard?

That is the dilemma for African countries with ivory stockpiles. It’s a polarizing debate. Destruction eliminates any and all possibility at corruption, it will not find its way back on the market and it sends a clear message ivory NOT attached to the animal has no value.

But the other side believes saving and selling the ivory allows the money to be rolled back over into conservation efforts for the animals, and the communities.

The problem is that elephants and rhinos exist throughout the African continent, making the “product” available in multiple countries, and each country has its own stance on stockpiling. So while Mozambique destroys ivory, directly across the border in Zimbabwe the country stores it, awaiting an opportunity to sell. This creates mixed messages and a lack of unity.

horns and tusks by reuters

Seized horns and tusks on display in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Selling Ivory Funds Communities

Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have a stock and sell take on ivory.

Namibia  Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has said destroying the ivory and horn goes against government policy. Instead the stock is auctioned off to other interested countries.

“We will get a lot of money and the proceeds will go to state coffers to alleviate poverty. Also, we feel it is not an effective deterrent in fighting poaching,” said Shifeta.

While Botswana states it is “out of the question” to sell rhino horn, they’ve just announced they will seek permission to sell their ivory stockpile after the 10 years moratorium with CITES has expired in 2018.

Good news for the rhinos, considering the fact that Botswana is key to future rhino populations with the current translocations taking place from Kruger National Park.  Not so great for elephants.

Overall,  an interesting proposition considering the country’s strong stance on anti-poaching, and the large stake in their wildlife. 90% of tourists in Botswana come for the wildlife.

bots tourism

The wildlife tourism industry is estimated to continue to grow throughout the coming years, making it an invaluable component to the economy. Graph: World Travel & Tourism Council


 Destroy Ivory, Stop Poaching

Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia have all held public burns/crushes to destroy their stockpiles of horn and ivory.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesman Paul Udoto says the illegal ivory has no economic value to them, saying that “the selling is what has brought us to the state of poaching that we are in.”

kenya ivory burn bbc

Kenya burned 15 tonnes of ivory in March. President Kenyatta has vowed the entire stockpile will be burned this year. AFP photo

One-off Sales

So the hoard and sell leads to occasional one-off sales of a set amount for a limited time.

It is the belief of some that by CITES issuing these sales of horn or ivory, it fans the flames and results in a poaching spike, sending elephant and rhino populations into a tailspin. Afterall how can we  allow LEGAL one-off sales of a product AND simultaneously strive at reducing demand for the same product? Confusing to say the least.

The experts who work with elephants are in agreement.

cynthia moss 1It is very discouraging having to fight the battle to save elephants once again. The 1989 ban helped elephants to recover in most parts of Africa. Now even in Amboseli we’re losing elephants to ivory poachers for the first time in many years. The sale of any ivory–legal or not–is creating demand. No one needs ivory. It is a beautiful substance, but the only ones who need it are elephants.

– Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Elephant Research Project

ian redmond 2As long as ivory is valued as a commodity, every tusker is at risk from poachers, and only where anti-poaching efforts are sufficient will elephants survive. Anti-poaching costs money and lives. Banning the ivory trade has been the single-most effective and economical way to slow the loss of elephants across their whole range – not just where they can be protected by anti-poaching units. 

Ian Redmond, OBE Wildlife biologist and Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

So who do we listen to? The experts who work with these creatures, seeing their lives and deaths and the daily effects of poaching? Or political officials with a mixed bag of agendas?

If we must view elephants, rhinos or other animal in economic terms, then we must factor in tourism. Without wildlife, there is no tourism. Period.

To read more about the fight to ban ivory and save elephants: Born Free Foundation 


Elephant herd on a dusty day in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo: Tisha Wardlow







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Victory for Kratos!

kratos rhinoThis is Kratos. Gorgeous, feisty, healthy-the perfect genes for breeding. But the conservancy he resides in deemed him aggressive, a troublemaker. Their solution-sell him in a trophy hunt.

The problem is that the conservancy can only legally hunt impalas and warthog. This violation has been the subject of a heated, urgent court battle this week, as the hunt was scheduled for the end of the week.

Fortunately justice and common sense prevailed, and he has been spared.

“…At the end of the day, none of this should have been necessary. Nature Conservation should not have granted a permit; a hunter shouldn’t have wanted to pay R1.2m to have one photo taken of him standing next to a slaughtered rhino. However, there are people out there who operate to a different agenda to normal, decent human beings and fortunately this time we have managed to foil them from achieving their objectives. Although we have won this battle, this is not an end to it and I will continue to fight against the needless slaughter of our wildlife.”  —Tim Fenner, the owner of Kichaka Luxury Lodge, who launched the urgent interdict. 

Thank you to OSCAP for keeping us up to date on the proceedings!


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