Of all the rhinos that we dehorned, Erick is a memorable one. Let me tell you why. The day had been very successful tracking and finding all of the rhinos in the area. The rangers ha located all but one. His name is Erick. We had spotted him the day before hanging out with another rhino but he was not going to hang around. After all of the ruckus with the chopper and us capturing his buddy he split.
The search party separated into four different groups, including the chopper. We all searched the area where we last saw him and rangers told us where he liked to hang out but to no avail. The deadline to find Erick loomed over our heads. We had to find him or he would remained horned and in danger of being poached. The chopper is only allowed flight times up to a certain time in the day and that was getting close and our final day in that area. We all split up into different teams to try and better our chances of finding him. As we drove around the lake coast we picked up fishing nets that would pose a dangerous threats to wildlife. A small task but one that should not be avoided.
We just about gave up when the radio call came in that the rangers had found him. The call soon came in from the chopper that Dr. Keith Dutlow had darted him. We got the location and the race was on. The whole time Erick had been right near our camp and we were not really looking there. Smart chap! We spotted him, grabbed the oxygen and equipment and were quickly on foot. On this particular capture I was close to Dr. Dutlow rope in hand. Waiting instructions to come help push the rhino on its side if needed to. Erick was not going to go down easy. He walked around darted, fighting the sedative and not giving up. He then turned around and charged. The animal handler, Antone, ran. I ran as well, very fast! I turned to see where the rhino was and where I needed to run too, but the sedative was starting to kick in. I cannot remember if Erick was given a second dart. What I do remember is my brother running thru some bushes that no one normally would have ran thru and the speed at which he did. He thought like I did, if the animal wrangler runs, you better run too!
|Wildlife Vet marking for dehorning|
|Dehorning in process, vitals being looked and checked as ranger spray with water to keep cool|
Erick finally sat down and the team went to work. Tagged, blood samples taken and the dehorning all went smooth. Dr Lisa Maribini told everyone to start backing away as Erick was about to be given the reversal. Erick stood up, turned to look at us and walked away.
As the AWARE team drove away, Erick wandered into the bush and disappeared. Everything had gone well. All the rhinos in the area were finished and the feeling of accomplishment felt great. The drive back was not far at all, actually showing how close he was to camp.
Back at camp, we unloaded and were getting ready for dinner. The sunsets are breathtaking near the body of water we were at, so I grabbed my sketchbook and headed toward the stone pier. The amount of birds was going to be be perfect to watch and sketch. As I sat down to draw, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was Erick! He was walking to the edge of the water and munching on some grass. He grazed for about five minutes and slowly walked towards me. I was not going to take any chances so I climbed up on a stone structure to make sure I had some protection just in case. He continued to walk forward but wasn't interested in me, there was just good grass where I was. He came very close and stopped. I grabbed a ballpoint pen and marker and sketched him. It was as if he knew he was modeling. A beautiful specimen of a rhino stood there still while I drew. It was unreal! He would go down get some grass and hit the pose. After I did the quick drawing he slowly walked away. A white winged friend even landed on his rear as he was walking away. The experience was surreal but one I will never forget. He disappeared into the bush as the night moved in. I hope I see you again soon Erick and that you will be left alone to enjoy the grass and the rest of your life.
|Erick posing for me. Thanks for the visit big man.|
|Selfie with Erick before it was too close for comfort|