Gordon Homer, Peace Parks Project Manager in Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, and his family are visiting Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, the Zambian side of the protected area of the shared Victoria Falls. Despite being a relatively small park when compared to some of the other conseratoin areas in Africa, it is home to three of the Big 5 – rhino, elephant, buffalo, as well as a number of plains game such as giraffe and zebra.
With the support of two rangers, the group manages to track down a herd of three white rhino, that is under armed guard 24 hours a day, as seen in the video above. Because of their high persecution rates and endangered status, Gordon tells us how humbling it was to be so close to and walk alongside these gentle giants in their natural habitat.
There are two species of rhino that are found in southern Africa; the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), and the feisty black rhino (Diceros bicornis). Although both are armoured with thick hides and intimidating-looking horns, the two species are quite different, both in looks and personality.
Despite what their name suggests, both species of rhino are similar in colour and the main difference comes down to a few key features. The first is the habitat that you find them in, with white rhino preferring wide, open grassy plains compared to the black rhino, who prefer dense, wooded areas.
Size is another key indicator of the species, with a fully grown white rhino being a lot larger than an adult black rhino. The last main differentiating feature is their mouths, as the white rhino has a wide mouth for grazing on the open grasslands, and the black rhino has a more hooked lower lip, useful when browsing on trees and leaves. In fact, the name ‘white rhino’ came about from the incorrect translation of the Afrikaans word ‘wyd’, meaning wide, used to describe its lip, not its colour. You can watch Gordon explain that here.
While walking with his family, Gordon, shares a tonne of valuable information about the white rhino. He points out that they are bulk grazers, which is critical for the health of the ecosystem. By eating grass in large quantities they help it short which allows smaller grass species the opportunity to compete with the bigger ones. Gordon goes on to show us what a rhino ‘midden’ looks like – essentially an area they defecate in. After a visit here, a male will go on to mark his territory by rubbing his feet in and around his midden to ensure that his scent is left on the ground, warding off other competing males in the area.
Peace Parks Foundation and partners are committed to helping restore the rhino population through its multi-faceted Rhino Protection Programme, which aims to multiply intervention along the poaching ‘supply chain’. It is also assisting with expanding the rhino’s range and you can also watch the historic rhino translocation taking place in Mozambique’s Zinave National Park, here.