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.
We were on an early morning drive on the Bhanyini plains and were watching the two cheetah brothers scouring the area. There were lots of wildebeest with their young calves about and nearby was a bachelor herd of zebra. As the cheetahs took up positions to hunt a calf one of the zebra stallion kept blocking their view.
It was during our morning drive that we came across fresh tracks of the wild dogs in the Nhoro area, on the northern side of the reserve. The tracks told us they were moving in a southerly direction, and with the sun already heating during this time of the day we knew that it would not be long before they would take a rest in an area that has some water and shade. The tracks kept on heading south and we thought that with plenty of water at Sosiji Dam this could be the area they were heading. But, to our surprise, there was no sign of them there.
The temperature was very high, above 40 degrees Celsius, and so I decided that afternoon to sit and wait quietly in the shade with my guests at Lojaan Dam. Lojaan is one of my favourite places on the property. The scenery is amazing, and this area with its hills, drainage lines and thick bush is the right habitat for buffaloes and black rhino.
Sitting in Hwata blind (our sunken photographic hide) is an incredible way to wait for animals to come and drink, especially when the heat beats down on the earth and scorches the last bit of moisture out of almost everything. At this time of the year one can sit in the blind and always have something to watch, from the endless amount of doves that just seem to keep coming to drink, to the almost resident impalas around the open areas of the pan. It’s always great to see this action, but of course the action that we all hope for is the arrival of the bigger pachyderms.