|Posted on July 23, 2006 at 8:14 AM|
I have finally finished my training period, and immediately ran back to Natal. I did enjoy the training, but after a few months of sleeping an average of four hours a night – I needed a break. So I left Limpopo, at least for the time being, and started working in different lodges throughout KwaZulu Natal. I was planning of finding permanent work when the opportunity to help with a ‘game count’ came up. This was something I couldn’t turn down, although I promised myself I would find a full time guiding job when I was finished.
The reserve is 22 000 hectares, which is fairly large. I was getting paid for two weeks of driving around a beautiful east coast game reserve with Katy, the reserve ecologist. She turned out to be a really pleasant lady, and we got along fabulously!
Each day, we grabbed our GPS’s, binoculars, notepads and a few snacks to keep us going. Every time we would spot an animal (or a herd of them), we would take the co-ordinates, write down how far away from the road they were seen, count the different males, the females, the unknowns and the youngsters – and log all the details onto our notepads. Each day we would do a different section of the reserve, and did each section twice. It was a lot of work, but we had fun trying to spot animals before our eagle-eyed driver/game ranger, Tom, did. Most of the time, we would get distracted and end up stopping the vehicle and swopping facts about birds, trees and animals. This is where I learnt how to tell the difference between the tracks of a black rhino and a white rhino. At one point Katy and Tom decided to show off their skill at tracking a white rhino. I ended up filming this from the safety of the Land Drover. It was thick bush, and the tracks looked fresh. They had disappeared into the bush by the time I spotted the rhino in an open area. It was acting strangely and had obviously smelt them (or something else). I decided it would have been a bad idea to shout out, so I whistled. Tom seemed to understand and he and Katy went behind a tree for a bit of safety. The rhino didn’t know where their scent was coming from. In confusion, he spun around in one spot and created a huge cloud of dust. There was a lot of snorting going on, and finally Katy and Tom admitted defeat and returned to the Land Rover and we had a good laugh while I showed them the video playback.
A few more days passed, until we had about 2 days left together. We had been listening (via the radio) to a group tracking a specific white rhino for about 3 days. We just happen to be about 10 minutes away from them when suddenly they found it. Katy huffed, and said it is a pity we couldn’t join. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you I like to try my luck when it comes to doing things I’m not supposed to. I was quiet for a little while, and then innocently mentioned that we had done so much that day, so I was sure we could take half an hour to just go and have a look. I could see she was thinking about it. I pushed a bit more, and reminded her that we were so close to their location. She took a breath out and said, “Okay, let’s do it!”
She asked over the radio if we could join them, and luckily we were given permission. We raced over to their location to find the rhino already down. The vet was checking its vitals, while I made my way to its side and placed my hand on its skin. It was harder and rougher than I imagined it would be. I was in awe, watching it, while the others drilled the horn and placed a tracking device inside. Word to those who don’t know: rhino horn is like your hair or fingernails’, so drilling the horn was completely painless. We also took clippings out of the ears for identification purposes – which I’m sure isn’t painless, although I have seen a rhino pierced through the stomach by another rhino’s horn and fully recovered, so I was not worried about a bit of ear skin. We were then told to head back to the trucks while they woke him up. We did as we were told and sat in the trucks, while we looked on at the game rangers running in all directions as the rhino woke up a little too quickly. We could barely breathe and one ranger managed to climb a thorn tree with no problem. Like we always say in the bush, “You don’t know it has thorns until you climb down.”
In the end, the ‘hunter’ got his photo’s next to the huge magnifcent animal (and we gave him the skin from the ears), while playing a part in Africa’s conservation efforts. What a pleasure. If only more hunters chose the Green Hunt over Trophy Hunting