Black Rhino Charges Tour Van
"This is not Animal Planet," Psychology Mbuso Mmema told his group of 10 All Out Africa volunteers en-route to Kruger National Park. "You probably will not see lions mating or leopards killing impalas. But you will see a lot of wildlife."
All Out Africa is an international volunteer travel company based in Swaziland. Though participants on the adventure tours are keen to experience an African safari, the tour guides remind them that the media’s portrayal of African wildlife can seem more exciting and exotic than real life. However on this particular occasion in early February, “real life” was far more exhilarating than Animal Planet.
About halfway through a Friday morning drive on the S28 road toward Crocodile Bridge Camp, whilst looking for cats, All Out Africa tour guides Psychology and Bongani “Bob” Motsa, spotted a rhino. White or black, they could not tell at first. The grass was high; they only saw its backside.
The black rhino was about 30 meters away from the parked All Out Africa Quantum, facing away but staring over his shoulder at them. A combination of poor eyesight and his heightened aggression from a suspected previous injury provoked him to sense danger – he turned and charged at the All Out vehicle. It is estimated he got up to about 40 km/h before colliding with the passenger side, piercing holes through the steel.
“We didn’t know it was a black one until it was charging. The first thought for us was ‘how to get the volunteers to safety,’” Bob said. “Actually we tried to reverse (the van) but it stalled and then we heard a big crash. Everyone screamed, except me and Pyscho, of course,” he laughed. “Then everyone was in shock.”
Taolin Shenya, an All Out volunteer from London, had a different story.
“Oh, they definitely screamed! The black rhino headed straight into the passenger door where Bob was sitting. After the initial impact he jumped out of his seat and into the back. It was a good thing he did because the rhino’s horn put a hole right where Bob’s legs were. Bob reacted quite well, he was quite brave.”
After thrashing his horn into the vehicle with 1.5 tonnes of force behind it and rocking the vehicle like a toy car he limped away, which is when Bob and Psychology noticed blood coming from his hind leg with flies swarming over it. They assumed the wound was either from an illegal poaching incident or from a fight with another animal.
“He was injured so he took everything as a threat, which is why he came after us when he saw us,” Psychology said. “We saw blood on its horn after it charged us. It hurt our car, but it also got hurt.”
Bob and Psychology notified the section ranger and manager of Crocodile Bridge Camp about the incident and filed an accident report. They and the volunteers on the tour were worried about the fate of the black rhino, but they took comfort knowing that endangered species are given special treatment when wounded.
“It was surreal the way it happened because I was at the back of the van trying to get a photo and then the next minute I knew the van was being rocked by the rhino. That’s literally how quick it happened,” Australian All Out volunteer Melissa Bennett said. “And then five minutes later we were all laughing about it.”
Pyschology of Ntondozi and Bob of Nkamanzi have served as guides for several dozens of tours to Kruger from Swaziland through their combined seven years of employment with All Out Africa. Before this incident, they both could count on one hand how many times they have seen a black rhino.
Kruger National Park may supply the most diverse game viewing experience in Africa, but its collection of black rhinos numbers to only 300. The species has been declared critically endangered mostly due to illegal poaching for their horn, which has been believed for centuries to have healing powers.
To help with the conservation of threatened savanna species All Out Africa runs a savanna conservation project which enables volunteers the chance to participate in on-going ecological research and monitoring. For information on All Out Africa volunteer programmes and tours, please visit our web site at www.alloutafrica.com.