PEOPLE 258 – THE THIRD LARGEST LAND MAMMAL, AND ME

 

 


Photo credit: Bill Stripling

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Years ago, I used to lead bird and general wildlife/nature safaris in Kenya.  It was hard work, not least because, rather than relying on a driver, I did all my own driving, of which much was either on bad roads or on no roads at all.  But I greatly enjoyed the work, because the company I worked for provided tours for naturalists, and these could be anything from out and out birders, to those wanting to see the large mammals – and especially the large predators – to those who wanted to see and hear about a bit of everything, including geology (my university subject) and Kenyan peoples and history.   We handled a lot of groups from museums and nature/conservation societies.

And sometimes the itinerary took us to Meru National Park, which is situated in low, hot, thornbush country to the northeast of Mt Kenya.  And there in Meru, in those days (the late 1980s), there was a small herd of White Rhinoceros that I think had been given to Kenya by another country – I think South Africa – as a diplomatic, goodwill gesture, and which the Kenyan government kept under the watchful eyes of some armed National Park staff in Meru.

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Photo credit: Bill Stripling

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Now there are two types of rhinoceros in Africa, the White and the Black, and they vary vastly in general temperament.  The Black Rhino, which is native to Kenya, is aggressive, violent and extremely dangerous – they kill people, and fiercely attack vehicles.  You really don’t mess about with a Black Rhino, you treat it with enormous respect.  But the White Rhino is really something else.  Its not so aggressive and, living long term under human care, these few animals in Meru were more docile still.

So, on safari, I would take my clients to walk amongst and be with the world’s third largest land mammal (after the African and Indian Elephants), which was a wonderful and intriguing experience.  For their part, the rhinos ignored us completely – to the point of calmly walking through you if you were foolish enough to stand in their way.  But we could touch them – it was like laying your hand on a rock-solid, cold, stone wall – and, being young and stupid, I remember going round to the front end, getting hold of the fabled horn and shaking the creature’s head – whereupon I was unceremoniously tossed aside very much as you or I might impatiently wave away a nuisance fly – which was, of course, exactly what I deserved.

Amazingly, after all these years (this would have been sometime in the period 1987-1989) I recall the name of the photographer – Bill Stripling.  He took these shots and, after the trip, was kind enough to send me these large prints, and also lots of the other excellent wildlife shots he took during the safari, which I’ve housed in an album and which I treasure.

What else is there to see here?  Well, the two pictures were obviously taken at different times of the day, as the light in the second one is very yellow – it must have been around sunrise or set.

And also there’s the younger me, with beer gut already evident, and around my neck the Zeiss 10x40B Dialyt binoculars that took such a hammering on those safaris, and which I still have.  Also the more discerning of you may notice my slightly big-breasted look – I mean, just how fetching could I get? – which resulted from the fact that, for reasons of security, I always used to carry all of the tours’ petty cash, in cash, in the breast pockets of my safari shirts – I was a walking bank, with a chest that slimmed down as the tours went on.  Is that exotic or what???!

And now I suppose, because I try to be honest on this blog, I should tell you the full story of these rhinos.  I apologise in advance for the sadness of what I am about to relate.

I was accompanying a party of British birders, and took them to see these rhinos.  And then, later on on that safari, we bought a local newspaper and learned that, soon after our visit, all of these animals had been killed by poachers, and their horns stolen.  I can imagine the scene.  A few National Park guards, most probably armed with British Lee Enfield .303 rifles of WWII vintage, up against superior numbers of poachers armed with AK47s – I expect the guards ran for their lives.  I would have run too.

But, sad ending though this may be, after all these years I still retain wonderful memories of being able to be so close to those great creatures.

(You can enlarge these images by clicking onto them – they will open in separate windows.)

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

23 Responses to PEOPLE 258 – THE THIRD LARGEST LAND MAMMAL, AND ME

  1. just incredible!! wonderful post and story!

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  2. krikitarts says:

    What a magnificent creature (the one on the left) and what a treasure of experiences! I’ve never been closer to Africa than the northern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and it’s always seemed like another world to my imagination. It’s great to be able to see it through your (and your friend’s) eyes.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      The one on the left … in the light of that, I may just flip these images ….

      Yes, Africa is another world and I’m grateful to have been there, but it is a place on the edge and, in this modern world, getting closer to the edge. There was a time when I thought to stay there for the rest of my life but, now, I don’t think that would have worked. 😦

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  3. Sallyann says:

    My main reason for blogging is to preserve my memories, already I look back on my old posts and think ‘I don’t remember that’ then by the end of the post a little of the memory sometimes stirs inside my grey cells but I’m not always certain if I’m living one of my memories again, or if I’ve borrowed somebody else’s. 😊
    Thanks for sharing this memory, if I manage to look back on it on a day when the old grey cells are playing tricks on me, it would be a great memory to share.
    😀 Oh and your elephants, this and your elephants, these have to be my favourite of your memories.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Can’t remember if you’ve borrowed any of my memories or not … 😉 …….

      I know exactly what you mean about using blogging as a means of preserving memories. I do the same – by compiling my favourite FATman posts as Blurb photobooks,, usually about one Blurb book per year – a recent one was 148 pages. I have the posts’ pictures of course, but I also copy the text into the Blurb books too – a wonderful way to remember things.

      I’m glad my elephant memories get to you – absolutely wonderful creatures! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, quite an adventure! Very sad to read the full story – hope you are well

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes I’m fine, thanks, Lisa – and we are edging, little by little into Spring – crocuses and snowdrops are rather past, and daffs are everywhere – haha! and the weather is “changeable”!!! Yes, a sad story, but all too inevitable – and recently a rhino was killed for its horn in a Paris zoo!!!!!!! Hope you’re fine too. Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

  5. bluebrightly says:

    It IS a very sad ending, but not surprising. As you note above, the countries where they live don’t have the resources to protect them. But what I see, as soon as the thrill of the rhinoceros wears off, is that big smile – how happy you look! And relaxed, in spite of having all that cash on you.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes I was happy in Kenya – young, happy and irresponsible! 🙂 It was a tremendous experience, which has certainly left its wonderful mark on me, and I’m grateful for that. I carried the cash that way on every safari – and never has a single problem. I’d been working in Arabia prior to going to Kenya, and of course there crime wasn’t a problem because of the strict religious laws. But Kenya was quite the opposite, crime everywhere, and early on I did wonder whether I could exist in such a milieu. But … especially when we’re young, we can adapt to things, and I soon just saw the crime as part and parcel of Kenya – but still, never had any problem with all that cash on my chest!!! 🙂

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  6. Meanderer says:

    A very special time, Adrian, captured beautifully. I didn’t know the differences between the rhinos and so have learned something new. Such a sad – but all too familiar – story, also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      The two African rhinos are quite different in temperament and diet. As I say, this one tends to be less aggressive – tho I still wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of one! But it is a grazer, grazing on grasses with its wide thin mouth. The more aggressive Black is a browser, having lips adapted for nibbling leaves off bushes and trees. And yes, the sadness, the terrible inevitability of it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! 🦏 Just wow!! ❤ATP❤

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  8. This was a very interesting read and the photos had so much atmosphere. What an interesting job you had! You must have lots of great memories from those times, I’d imagine. I wouldn’t have dared go so near the rhinos, though these were the docile type – I’m just too chicken for that kind of thing in general! So sad indeed, what happened to them, unfortunately I’m not too surprised…

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, I have many memories of those days, and 12 years in Kenya have certainly left their mark on me, which is something I’m constantly grateful for – for better or worse, and I do think better gets it, they have helped mould me into who I am today. And no, the fate of these animals is not surprising, and the rhino situation has only worsened in the years since then – overall, its very sad indeed and, being a realist, I am unable to see any sort of positive outcome. Thank you again for your thoughts. Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice to read about your adventures; must be something so close to a huge rhino.. Yes, I think that you just ‘do’ things when your young and then you have to accept that ‘it’s over’, just like the rhinos.. bit sad, though. Cheers anyway.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Harrie, my friend, thanks for your thoughts – of course I do accept that youth is over for me – although I think I might be veering towards growing old disgracefully, which is nice – but I do remain truly appalled at some of the risks I took all those years ago. However I was lucky, maybe we were all lucky, and here we are now. Enjoy your Sunday – think I can feel a few bottles of Duvel coming on, for medicinal purposes, obviously …. 😉 ….

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  10. paula graham says:

    Ohh…those were the days..we were young and full of daring and hope and foolishness. Stunning animals, these rhinos. So very sad the treatment they receive from humans and their greed.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, we were young – do you find that, as you get older, a lot of the daring evaporates? I look back now and shudder at the risks I quite mindlessly took when I was younger, not least when in Kenya and also inland Oman – I simply never considered many of the dangers – I guess we’re like that when we’re young. I’m afraid that rhinos in general, and many other big animals too, are on the way out, I don’t think its stoppable now – and particularly so because many of the countries where such animals live have few resources to protect them, and such huge, remote areas to police. Sorry to be so downbeat, but I do try to be realistic.

      Liked by 1 person

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