Here is Daddy Rhino. He is fast asleep and very happy. The water hole is near by, the jackal has already laid waste to the blue birds, and all is well with the world. It’s about six o’clock in the morning and most of the animal kingdom is alert and ready for the day. But papa rhinoceros is just relaxing, the little oxpecker birds are cleaning him up, removing all the nasty parasites and ticks which could make his life very unpleasant.
We sat in our jeep and watched him. He was obviously dreaming nice thoughts, as we perceived his rapid eye movements. He snorted and grunted as he tried to roll over – not very successfully – to get more comfortable. The sun was beginning to emerge but it wasn’t yet hot. He was mainly in the shade anyway.
We were very still for about half an hour. We saw giraffes edging their way very gingerly to the water. Every step was a tremble of alertness: ears twitching, nostrils flaring, eyes everywhere, as they moved picked their way, one hoof at a time, towards the pool. Then suddenly there was the rumble of movement in the trees.
Heavy padding. Every animal ie vicinity – including us- stopped breathing. Freeze, fight or flight. We all froze. And then she hove into view. Mama rhino.
Not a happy bunny. No indeed. She went up towards her sleepy husband and nudged him. Hard. He opened one eye. Disbelievingly. He closed it again. She walked closer to him. And nudged him again. Harder. This time he opened both eyes and just yawned. You could see her getting crosser. She stood over him until he eventually rolled over. Slowly. Snorted several times. Slowly. Then got onto his knees. Slowly. Papa rhino finally stood up, drew himself up to his full height, looking at her balefully throughout. The little oxpeckers disappeared. She then turned tail and walked off.
We thought he was going to lie down again. But no. He followed her. Obviously miserable. Head down. Tail up. Thump thump thump into the trees.
But the story didn’t end there. As he trotted after her, with her turning every few seconds to see if he was still there, we suddenly saw three little baby rhinos emerging and following them. No photos though, unfortunately.
This was 12 years ago. February 2007 in Madique, South Africa.