7 Weeks in Kruger: The Rhino Murder Crisis
Regular readers of our blog will have noticed that I haven’t once mentioned any rhino sightings during my epic 7 Weeks in Kruger trip. This is, of course, for good albeit tragic reasons.
The rhino poaching crisis has reached critical proportions. At the start of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of white and black rhino lived across great swathes of Africa. These numbers have been decimated throughout the last hundred years by hunting, poaching and habitat destruction through human encroachment.
Yet more recently, the rise of middle classes in Far East Asian countries such China and Vietnam has created a resurgent demand for rhino horn for use in ‘alternative medicine’ remedies for everything from impotency to (self-inflicted) hangovers.
There is, of course, zero genuine scientific evidence that any of this works. This simply cannot be stated strongly enough. And even if it did, it would not warrant the subsequent mass-murder of rhinos that Africa has witnessed.
As of 2010 there was 7-8,000 remaining in Kruger National Park, significantly down on previous eras but the population was growing and was by far the largest population of remaining rhinos at that time. Since 2010, the numbers of rhinos murdered in within Kruger are as follows:
2010: 146 | 2011: 252 | 2012: 425 | 2013: 606 | 2014: 827 | 2015: 826 | 2016: 662 | 2017: 504
Total: 4,248 murdered rhinos
Simple maths shows that as much as 60% of Kruger’s rhinos have been murdered in 8-years. This is 2 rhinos every 3 days.
2018 data isn’t yet released but is likely to be at least a further 400 rhinos dead.
The efforts and funding being deployed in Kruger are now significant, with many incredible people dedicating themselves to the fight. Yet it remains a hugely challenging battle and the chances of rhinos, particularly the smaller population of black rhino, being driven to extinction both in Kruger and across Africa remains very real.
We have consequently not mentioned any rhino sightings in our blog posts, simply because any suggestion of the location of rhinos within the park puts the animal at risk should poachers scan social media and other online sources to get clues on the positions of these beasts.
Yet rhinos remain a wonderful game driving sighting and experience and so we wanted to carefully share some of our images and stories from Kruger. We have deliberately avoided showing too much of the locations in the park to protect the rhinos.
During my 7-week stay in Kruger, I was fortunate to see a number of rhinos, but the total was much reduced compared to previous visits. The frequency of my rhino sightings was approximately 10% of my trip back in 2003 which tells a very clear story.
The situation appears bleak for black rhinos in particular – I did not see a single one in the entire trip. Furthermore, in the northern half of the park, I had no rhino sightings at all and did not speak to anybody else who had seen any either.
Thankfully, I was ultimately able to find and enjoy some wonderful sightings with white rhinos. The very first encounter was almost comical – I had spent an hour after sunrise with a pride of sleepy and well-fed lions. As the group of vehicles at the sighting grew, I decide to move off… only to be confronted by a huge male white rhino making his way to a nearby water source just 75m further along the road!
The rhino would have been clearly visible from the lion sighting too, but, incredibly, not a single vehicle back there seemed to notice the rhino and I had a wonderful private sighting!
A further sighting was very fortunate. A vehicle had dropped a wheel off the side of a concrete causeway, getting completely stuck. It took 6 of us to push the vehicle back onto the road after some debate as to the best way to do so without risking the car rolling into the water!
After lots of camaraderie and patting each other on the back on a job well done, the various assembled vehicles dispersed, leaving me at the back.
Again, out of nowhere a white rhino appeared but not before all the other vehicles had headed out, leaving me with another private sighting! He got closer and closer to the road as he grazed and came so close to my vehicle that, at one point, I could have reached out of the window and touched him.
Tragically, this confidence around humans contributes to the poaching crisis as rhinos only become aggressive or flee once startled or injured, by which time it is often too late.
Driving alongside a white rhino in the wild like this was one of the top highlights of the entire trip…
This next rhino taking a mud bath in the heat of the day made for some fun ‘striped’ rhino images too, and preceded an incredible sighting…
Meet super mum…! This female white rhino was accompanied by both an adolescent rhino and an adorable young calf.
That she is supporting both through such troubled times for rhinos is just incredible. And the little guy was simply amazing too….
Quite simply a privilege to be so close to such incredible beasts as they strive for survival. As they wander off, you cannot help but wish them all the very best against such terrible circumstances.
Rhinos rightly make for an incredibly emotive subject in the midst of the current crisis. I hope this blog post shares the right balance of highlighting their plight while showing them for the incredible animals that they are. As custodians of natural wilderness areas like Kruger National Park, it is imperative that humans end the killing and protect these mighty beasts.
Our next blog post will return to reporting on the next steps in my epic Kruger journey and so please do check back in for more.
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Many thanks for reading
Danny & Charlotte
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