REPORTAGE: Save the rhino, Namibia


Save the Rhino, tracking with rangers 

“Look, there is a fresh trail over here. The print is deep and without any brushes. The toes are pointing to the north, and the dung is fresh. You can smell it”, says tracker Martin Nawaseb, pointing at the ground. “Look at this broken branch. There has been a rhino recently here.” We are walking and driving through the hilly savanna and yellow green desert, which are surrounded by a wide landscape of Table Mountains and inactive crates. This is Damaraland National Park, some hours south from the Clay Castles, and about 150 miles above Swakopmund, Namibia. The park is the homeland of the black rhino, which we are trying to track.


The local trackers, Martin Nawaseb, Denzel Tjiraso and Victor Useb are monitoring the rhino’s on a daily bases. They have given the animals names and observe their social behaviors. They all know them by heart, because every time a rhino is spot, they draw their externality. The rangers are working for Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) and cooperating with The Ministry of tourism and surroundings and Wilderness, a tourism operator who is supporting several nature conservation projects. According to a critical article of National Geographic, printed in 2012, around 400 black rhino’s were killed in 2011 in Southern Africa because of poaching. Due to the successful cooperation between Wilderness, SRT and the government, the population in Damaraland is increasing and has been doubled since the 1980’s. Because poachers are still active, interest groups are careful showing the exact amount of rhino’s that live in this area. The compact Desert Rhino Camp of tourism organization Wilderness, exists since 2003, and is part of the Palmwag-concession, which has a size of 1365km2. They allow visitors to do a rhino tracking only four days a week.


The car is driving around one of the four water pools, where rhino’s might come. More traces. The trackers are following the bumpy sand road, but suddenly the traces disappear in the high grass. Victor and Denzel jump off the jeep. Both are walking a different direction, checking the shape of the tracks which trace they should follow. Little by little they are getting grip; after one hour Victor reaches for his binoculars. “He has to be here somewhere…yes, look, at the end of the bush!” The trackers are getting into the car, excited that they found a big male, called Ben. When a rhino runs, it can easily get a speed of 50 miles; the rangers do not take any risk to loose the bull. “This is an aggressive male, we have to be careful,” whispers Denzel. About 100 meters the rhino smells its company, and moves towards us with big steps. “In the car, now!” says Victor, when Big Ben is running towards the car within just 60 meters. Martin takes care for some distraction, by putting him self a bit further in the field. Ben appears very aggressively towards Martin at only 40 meters, scratching its legs into the sand. Martin stands mouse-still. He knows exactly how the animal will react and that he will run after making some threatened movements. Though, the adrenaline is rising, because the colossus is very near. After a minute Ben gives up, and indeed runs off in a trot. What an experience!


When Ben’s silhouette disappears at the horizon, the trackers note his character. Back at Desert Rhino Camp, nature conservator and Wilderness manager Chris Bakkes, is joining us. After several jobs as an anti-poach ranger for the South-African Kruger Park, among others, and wondering though Southwest Africa after he lost his arm because of a crocodile bite, his full attention goes to the conservation of the Namib parks. “You know, the biggest problem in Africa is that the wild has too little living space. It is not about which species live there, it is about the habitat which is available or which has to be created. The black rhino, elephants and cheetah need big life surfaces. Only one rhino can move around 10.000 hectares. We have around 1,4 million hectares, so fortunately this is a good breeding ground. A good habitat is the future that is why animal spieces survive. I am glad that the time of poaching is behind me, I do not want to go back to the Kruger or Ethosha, and it is a zoo. This is the real wilderness. There are no fences or asphalt roads. This is pure nature.”


Angelique van Os &  Henk Bothof

By Social Club Member
02 Jan '15
Great blog! We have to protect the Rhino's before it's too late! well done guys to highlight this subject!!

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