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.
It is always a pleasure to visit Hwata hide, especially during the late afternoon as a number of wildlife species trickle in for a drink. On this very day we were fortunate enough to be rewarded as we had sat in the hide for close to an hour without any signs of wildlife coming in, due to the availability of water at the natural pans; but then we saw a dominant elephant bull arrive.
This was without a shadow of a doubt, one of my best wildlife experiences ever, and I’m going to share it with you from my own perspective, as I was all alone. I’d headed out to my favourite refuge on the reserve, Lojaan Dam. It’s a dam at the foot of a sandstone outcrop, and it holds an enchantment all its own. There’s a dam wall and the water in front of it had receded leaving a patchwork of dry cracked mud. I parked the vehicle behind a rocky area, took my heavy fixed 400 mm lens and camera, and a weighty sandbag, and climbed over the rocks and on to the dam wall.
It was the usual morning routine of not knowing what we are going to see out there, but the moment you board those beautiful open vehicles your heart is full of joy in knowing that you are going to meet Mother Nature at close quarters. After an early morning cup of Zimbabwe’s finest coffee your eyes are wide open and looking through thick bushes for any movements, especially those of the illusive spotted cats. We went through Banyini open plains and there was lots of plains game, a crash of white rhinos and plentiful birdlife.
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!