For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals
I recently had the privilege to take a trip with my mom to South Africa. For the first couple of days of our trip, we stayed on a game reserve and saw amazing animals, so I thought I would do a series of posts on different animals living in this very special part of the world.
First, we started off on a rural game reserve outside of Johannesburg, named Pilanesberg. It was very interesting to travel through the rural places outside of Johannesburg and see things we’ve never seen before, such as the beautiful physical and powerful cultural landscape.
When we got to the game reserve, we were almost giddy with excitement, glancing out every window and hoping to catch glimpses of movement in the bushes and trees. But we didn’t particularly see anything until the safari, where we went out into the bush on jeeps to spot animals. I never thought that I would be able to do such a thing!
We waited with bated breath as they loaded up the car, got our cameras ready, and talked in a hush to the other people in the car. After riding for a couple minutes, we saw it: a rhinoceros mother and her baby!
I almost gasped at the size and beauty of it in the wild. It didn’t mind us much, giving us a glance before walking through the dirt road before passing us by. It was amazing. But the real surprise didn’t come until later, when we saw a huge male rhinoceros a couple days later.
We learned a lot about this male Rhino from our tour guide, Philip, (I did a post about Philip too!). The second Rhino was much bigger than the female and its baby. We were very excited to see the male rhinoceros, but were puzzled by its actions: it would raise its tail up in the air every couple of minutes, and spray a liquid out of its butt!
Philip told us that what it was doing was marking its territory by spraying urine every 5 or six minutes at certain times, and that it does this at different times in the year. He made the analogy that it was like a “Facebook Profile”, because that liquid tells other rhinos exactly what they need to know about that male – his age, sex, territory, and reproductive status! Some female rhinos can do this too, and, the scent can be used to mask the smell of their newborn babies in order to protect them from predators. Other animals can do this too, such as hippos by spraying with their poop, and, some carnivores do this as well to mark territory. The analogy of a facebook profile is spot on–and funny to think about—Thanks Philip!
I couldn’t get any photos or videos of the rhino actually spraying but here is a link to a youtube video of someone else catching it. I also found, through searching the web, that rhino urine was once actually used as a medicine in some Hindu cultures.
In addition to this territorial behavior of urine-spraying, rhinoceros also, surprisingly, use their sense of smell to do many things, such as find other rhinos and be wary of predators. Some more cool facts about rhinos is that they can run up to 35 miles per hour, and change direction surprisingly quickly, making them deadly. But they do have poor eyesight, which perhaps tells us why they spray urine and use their sense of smell to sense other rhinos.
As for us, here are a couple pictures of my mom, my stepmom, and my friend Zuza, who came with us on the trip. Overall, this first part of our safari trip–involving the rhinos– was very fun, but, as we would soon find out, far from over!