Because of poaching, rhinos have been in the spotlight for over a decade now. But beyond efforts to save them, not much is widely known about their behaviour. Most people with an interest in conservation will have heard about the death of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on Earth. Sadly it’s going to be tough to bring that sub-species back from the brink. But around 20,000 of Sudan’s cousins, the southern white rhino, remain in the south of Africa. This is the species of rhino that has the best chance of survival. Yet they are enigmatic, with their private lives remaining just that.
For a little over a year I’ve been slowly working on a new multimedia story-telling project to change that - The Rhino Diaries.
I first became privy to this private world on a university field trip in 2014. Towards the end of the two weeks, whilst working on my personal project with one of the reserve managers, we came across a bull rhino feeding with a mother and calf. We pulled up quite close and the huge male took a few steps towards us. He stopped, stared, then casually strolled off into the bush after the mother and calf. My heart was thumping and I was hooked on rhinos.
After graduating I managed to get a position as rhino monitor / anti-poaching officer back at the reserve for 3 months. That led on to the research masters on the behavioural ecology of white rhinos in 2016 with the University of Brighton and the Earthwatch Institute. That time the field work went on for 6 months, following rhinos on foot, day and night.
The Rhino Diaries will take the form of several short stories covering the lives of the rhinos at a private wildlife reserve. The structure of these stories will be loose and not strictly in chronological order. The main focus will be on the social lives of the rhinos, but I’ll also include stories about conservation on the ground. These stories will be a mix of writing supported by in-the-field videos.
The first entry - ‘Welcome to The Rhino Diaries’ - is the introduction to the project and explains the idea behind it.
‘Friendship’ is the first story from the field which occurred during my time as a rhino monitor the year before my research season. This introduces some of the rhinos at Mankwe and was the first time I caught a glimpse of their fascinating social lives.
The third entry, ‘Ganging Up’, happened during my first week of behavioural research. 7 rhinos came together one morning, laying the groundwork for what would become the notorious Naughty 6. It was also the morning where poor little Willis stood up for himself…
Keep an eye out over the following weeks for new stories, and feedback is always appreciated.