This white rhino bull was intent on separating a cow from her young calf, and trying to mate with her. The mother was having none of his nonsense, and kept rebuffing him. He was bearing quite a few new gouges on his head, from her horn, as a result of her chasing him off.
In the photo you can see he is advancing on the calf, but the brave little calf quickly realised this was unwise and galloped back to its mother’s side. When the mother and her calf went to have a drink at the pan, he decided to try and get to her by splashing straight through the water. She and the calf quickly retreated, and after quite some time of this losing battle the rhino bull became so frustrated that it chased an African buffalo that was standing nearby, and managed to almost toss him through the air.
A territorial white rhino male usually mates at about 12 years old. Gestation for the mother is a long 16 months. A calf stays with its mother for two to three years, and a new calf is born after about a 22-month interval.
These first two ‘debt collectors’ appeared before us, and it was interesting to see how different they looked. Buffalo bulls’ hair becomes sparse with age (like that of so many men), but the bull on the right was facially bald. You could tell it was very old compared to the other that had a thick glossy coat, and lots of facial hair. His horn tips were also blunt, his boss worn smooth and his ears ragged.
We found the third bull at a waterhole, having a drink with an oxpecker. He was aged almost exactly between the first two, as can be seen by his partial balding and smoothing off of his boss and horn tips. A buffalo’s lifespan is around 15 years.
I hope you’ve already eaten.
While watching a pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) sleeping near a waterhole in the drizzling rain I noticed a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) skulking about on the ground. Every now and again they would peck at something and eat it, and I wondered what it was since vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. You often see them cleaning up the scraps of meat from a kill made by wild dogs. The dogs hadn’t made a kill nearby, and so it was that my binos and big lens revealed they were eating the wild dogs’ faeces!
It is not uncommon to sit in Hwata blind and see dagga boys come to the pan and drink. Dagga boys are the old grumpy buffalo bulls who have left the ‘buzz’ of the breeding herd and often join bachelor herds of other old bulls. The name dagga boys refers to their habit of wallowing in the mud (dagga), mostly as a means of thermoregulation. These old guys are very confident in their grumpiness and often end up walking into the middle of the pan on a hot dry day.
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.
Early one morning Jenny and I were out scouting in different vehicles to help the guests’ game drives locate key specific animals, like lions, leopards, cheetahs, black rhinos and wild dogs. At about 7 am we received a sighting update from Bravo 2, which is the main southern boundary gate that links us to Gonarezhou National Park, informing us that they had seen wild dogs frantically location calling and running backwards and forwards along the boundary area.