Story from Wild NPO: Rhino vs Elephant

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This week we are kicking it off with an awesome sighting we have had in the last few weeks, involving the rhinos.

This one was during our afternoon drive.  We’d checked for signal and it looks like the rhinos are all together or at least very close to each other. We get to the area to find old straight horn and her group waiting patiently.  As we let them greet the vehicle and interact with each other as well as the volunteers on the bakkie, I find an opening to get out a bail of feed to place it down nicely so they all can feed, hopefully without to many arguments.

Mbilu, the not so little calf calls the shots as per usual, pushing the young bull around as she pleases.  Just as they were settling down and the volunteer was getting ready to check for the other rhino group, they appeared out of nowhere, like sea gulls to a hot chip on the ground.  So I re opened the back of the bakkie and laid out another pile so they can eat separately.  It all was going fine, all rhino happy and eating.  But as I was walking back to the bakkie Toni the intern says “sav,” while pointing in the direction behind me.  She didn’t need to continue the sentence, as I turned, there he was, the big boy of the reserve, everyone knows him as Zimbabwe, the big bull elephant.

This was my first rhino, elephant encounter so I had no idea what to expect.  Zimbabwe approached the way you think a dominate bull elephant would, head on!  As he approached he would grab sand from the ground and throw it towards Straight Horn and her gang causing them to scatter and panic.  They did their alarm calls but didn’t run to far away.  The other group of rhino continued to eat at a safe distance not too bothered by the commotion. Straight horn moved around the bushes but could only watch on as Zimbabwe demolished the tasty bails in a few big mouthfuls, scoping it up with his trunk and shovelling it into his mouth.  If the rhinos got too close he would throw some of the Lucerne at them causing them to move off.  Zimbabwe had back up as well, a smaller bull elephant.  He didn’t really do too much and kept his distance from Zimbabwe, but tried sneakily to grab a bit of Lucerne without him noticing.

Straight horn and her gang then approached the other rhinos grunting loudly as a warning to them (rhinos are very vocal animals).  It turned into a big grunting war and a few push and shoves and Straight Horns gang had pushed the others off their bails.  It was madness everywhere.  Lunas group then went and started to eat the big bails left out for the other game, which they didn’t seem too happy about but when you’re hungry you will eat anything.  A lot of people can relate to that, me included.

Zimbabwe then finished all the feed in his area then decided he wasn’t satisfied.  Poor Straight Horn was kicked off her bails again by this massive mammal. Not only that, he also scared off Lunas group in the process and they moved away to the waterhole.  Zimbabwe made quick work of the feed and then headed towards the waterhole.  He snapped a big branch off a tree, as if to show how powerful he is, and then moved on.

As the rhinos came back to the vehicle we were able to feed them another bail and this time it was all theirs.  The most interesting behaviour out of this altercation was the fact the new bulls, which came from another farm, had never seen elephants before and both approached them at different stages only to be turned away by the throwing of objects in their direction.

We couldn’t believe our luck as we all just sat back while the rhinos fed quietly and reflected on what we had just seen.  Little did I know this wouldn’t be the last time I saw this interaction between two of Africa’s heavy weights.