"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The 2021 Africa Journals, Ch. 19: In Which We Hunt the Elusive Blacks Rhino

Chapter 19

In Which We Hunt the Elusive Black RHino


These magnificent species of Africa - elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, cheetah, the great apes (Africa has four of the world's five great apes) - this is a treasure for all humanity, and they are not for sale. They are not for trade. They need to be valued and preserved by humanity. We all need a global commitment to that.
-- Patrick Bergin


 Rain is falling as we begin our game drive at 6 A.M.   Today, we hope, we will find the black rhinos in the Solio Wildlife Reserve.   If not, there are hundreds of white rhinos to be photographed, you might say.

 True.   But black rhinos are another matter.  They are extremely endangered by poachers.   As of last year, there were about 5600 black rhinos left in the world.  Ninety-eight per cent of those rhinos are found in only four African countries--Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, with the latter country having the majority.


Why are rhinos killed for their horns?   Countries like China and Viet Nam value the horn in  traditional medicine as a cure for cancer, hangovers, and even impotence.    While only the sellers of horns know how much a horn is worth, estimates range from $4000 a pound all the way up to $300,000 for a complete horn.

When you consider that the horn is made of keratin--the same material as human fingernails--the killing of these animals is seen as deplorable in the West.   And foolish.

The most current information I could find estimates there are more than 45 black and 185 white rhinos within the Solio reserve.  I can easily believe the white rhino count because I think I saw all of them in the grasslands pasture and in the forest during our stay.



White Rhino with unusual horn.

The black rhinos?    They are far more shy and elusive, preferring to eat leaves from thick brush than grazing on grass. However, we knew there were black rhinos in the reserve and so we were hopeful.

The first thing we see after we pass the gate is this soaking wet northern anteater chat.


A white-browed coucal is next.

A DeFassa waterbuck.


We move into the forest to search there and find a number of Egyptian geese and gray-crowned cranes, as well as a yellow-billed stork.

Deeper in the forest,  an African hoopoe poses with its catch.

 We find a lilac-breasted roller....



 ....a red-billed oxpecker on a white rhino.....





...and a speckled mousebird.




In another place, we see an African spoonbill and a sacred ibis... 




There are vervets to entertain us, particularly the baby hanging by its tail at left.

Even the unusual wattled starling.

A juvenile fish eagle.


We stop beside a bird's nest that is built immediately next to the trail.



And the anxious parent pacing nearby, a Senegal plover.  That a bird would build a nest right next to the trail shows how few visitors come to this area.


We find a giraffe with a baby.


We do not find black rhinos; we do not give up.   Instead, our guides take us to a lovely area within the forest and set up breakfast.


GK, one of our guides.   The second, Bonnie, can be seen at the left of the left vehicle.




While the guides were setting out breakfast on the hood of the vehicles, I  wandered around looking for anything interesting.   Then, I noticed my friends were off on a mission in the other direction so I caught up with them to see what they'd found.

Up in the branches of a tall tree, the beautiful Colobus monkeys with their long white tails were watching us.  These animals spend virtually all their lives in trees, seldom descending to the ground.




Then, we resumed our search of the black rhino.    I began to think we would never find one. 

Instead, we see sparring male impalas.

And a baby rhino with a red-billed oxpecker on its head.


Lappet-faced vulture...


Eventually, we must return to the lodge for our mid-day break.   No black rhinos as yet.


Late afternoon, we again return to the reserve.   A European bee-eater poses nicely.   These birds are migrating through so we were lucky to see them.





A white rhino and its calf are in the pasture. 


A small group of white rhinos.

In the distance are 15 more rhinos that I can see, as well as a vehicle from the Solio Ranch Lodge, the only other vehicle we see during our three days.

A crowned plover.

We head into the thickets again and find a small pride of lions resting in the shade.

By this time, the sun is low in the sky and our guide takes us through the thickets toward the pasture area.   At least we can top off the day with white rhinos....

Suddenly, there they are.  Two huge black rhinos in the bushes.   For the novice viewer, the triangular upper lip is the identifying feature.


The second rhino has its butt turned toward us.   It's on the left in this photo.

They give us only seconds and then turn away, going deeper into the brush.   And that was that.   All that searching for a minute of black rhinos.   Our friends in the other vehicle will be envious when we tell them.
 We end this wonderful day with dark clouds and sun rays and layered hills behind a couple white rhinos.

Next:   Rhinos, rhinos, rhinos everywhere.

Friday, January 21, 2022

The 2021 Africa Journals, Ch. 18: In Which We Search for Rhinos

 Chapter 18:

In Which We Search for Rhinos


'But African time was not the same as American time… As African time passed; I surmised that the pace of Western countries was insane, that the speed of modern technology accomplished nothing, and that because Africa was going its own way at its own pace for its own reasons, it was a refuge and a resting place.' - Paul Edward Theroux, an American travel writer and novelist. 


The guards opened the gates of Rhino Watch Lodge and we drove up the driveway to the small parking area.   We were just in time for lunch.  

This lodge is operated as a hotel even though they had both hotel rooms and tents.   Our group had reserved tents and and they were spaced far enough apart as to be almost private.

Laura's tent even had sofas and as she described the furnishings we  decided she was in the special tent suite and thereafter ensued a long-lived joke about Laura "having everything."

Unfortunately, I never did get a photo of Laura's tent.



My tent.

We had time after lunch to settle in, download the morning's photos from Samburu, and make certain all the camera batteries were charged.   Then, around four o'clock, we loaded up and drove five minutes  down the road to Solio Ranch and the rhinoceros reserve.

Solio Game Reserve is a fenced, privately-owned conservation area geared toward protecting both black and white rhinos.    The reserve was begun in 1970 when Courtland Parfet, owner of Solio cattle ranch, fenced off a large portion of the property so that indigenous animals could roam in their natural habitat.

The forerunner of today's Kenya Wildlife Service approached Parfet about taking in five black rhinos  and thus rhinos became part of the reserve.   More and more black rhinos were taken in and eventually, Solio became the source  of rhinos for many other reserves that were sufficiently secure to protect the animals from poaching.

The reserve has faced many challenges over the years including drought, fire, and refugee settlement.

During our three-night stay at Rhino Watch Lodge, traveling into the Solio reserve twice a day, we saw only one vehicle within the reserve plus ranger trucks.    It is well off the tourist trail and thus provides great bird animal sightings.

The splotches on the photo are rain drops.

This is where our guides went to take care of whatever paperwork was required, but why it took so long is beyond me.

Below is one of the ranch buildings.

We saw a number of DeFassa waterbuck in the reserve.

When we first saw the three rhinos in the photos below, they were pushing each other around.   As soon as we stopped to take photos, they were suddenly best friends.

I was taking a photo of this black-shouldered kite perched on a branch when it suddenly leapt into flight and I got this!

Blue-eared starling.


Rainbow  with vultures.

Eventually, we came out of the forest and into a large grassland area and it was there that we saw several rhinos.

By the end of our short afternoon drive, we has seen 11 rhinos--all of them white rhinos.

We had to be out of the reserve by 6 PM, before they lock the gates..   Here's a photo of one of our vehicles at the gate.  We are right behind him.   Time 6:03.

Next:    Where are the black rhinos?