HUMANS, RHINOCEROS AND RHINO ATTACKS

RHINOS, HUMANS AND HUNTING


hunting Javan rhino

Rhinoceros attacks are rare but they do occur. Each year Land Rovers and jeeps are charged by belligerent rhinos in Chitiwan National Park and a couple of people are trampled or gored.

On the world market black rhinos cost $32,000 a piece plus transportation costs. In South Africa black rhinos sell for $42,000 and white rhinos sell for $15,000. Sometimes they are purchased by game farm owners who the charge hunters twice their purchase price to shoot the animals.

Large numbers of rhinoceros used to roam the African savannahs and grasslands in the 1800s. There numbers where greatly reduced by white hunters. White rhinos were hunted many years ago for their hide which was made into horsewhips. A single spear can bring down a rhinoceros if it hits the right spot and penetrates through the thick hide to the liver or a heart.

Big-game hunter have offered $250,000 for the chance to shoot aging beyond-breeding age rhinos ay Pilanesburg National Park in South Africa. But they offers were turned down ans the animals were allowed to die naturally.

Borneo Rhino Hunter

A few Dyaks still hunt rhinoceros. In the late 1980s the Blair brothers met an old hunter who lived in the forest alone. He told them used to kill the rhinos with a spear thrust to the eye, ear or mouth but now used sawed-off double-barreled shotgun and on average he kills one of the 50 or so remaining rhinos in Borneo every two years. He said that sometimes take five people three of four months to track a single rhino. [Source: "Ring of Fire" by Lawrence and Lorne Blair, Bantam Books, New York]

The hunter said, "He knows we follow him. He has strong 'dream wanderer.' Very difficult...He hears soft feet on the ground from many rivers behind him. I look in his dirt, and talk to him. Tell him where to go so we can corner him. 'You need more bamboo shoots,' I tell him. 'You love them. Head east. O rhino, to the bamboo forest at the end of Deng gorge.” Or. “River root, Rhino, so sweet, so tender, go back a bit, for a week or so, towards the trap where the great rivers meet.' We can only kill him when he turns towards us in anger.”

Rhino Blood Bath for the Nepalese King

Hindus believe that the rhino got its horn from Lord Vishnu. In a rite called Blood Tarpan, which every Nepalese king, is required to perform on his accession, the Nepalese monarch is bathed in rhino blood and is required to offer rhino blood libations to the Hindu gods. A Nepalese prime minister performed the ritual at the age of 19 even though he was not a monarch .

The Nepalese prime minister told National Geographic, he went to Chitiwan National Park where a man on top of an elephant killed a rhino with one shot. "Then," he said, "a team of helpers dragged the rhino to a nearby riverbank, where using special knives, they disemboweled him. I climbed into the abdominal cavity they had made in the rhino and sat in its blood up to my waist for a few minutes while the Hindu priests officiating at the ceremony offered prayers. When I was directed to do so, I stood up, my hands cupped with rhino blood, and held them outward to the gods in memory of my mother...Later I ate the meat between the hoof and the ankle of one of the rhino's legs; the rest of the meat I gave away to the villagers."

In January 1981 this same ritual was repeated by Nepalese King Birendra in honor of his father. Although this ritual seems cruel, it helps the species as a whole to survive. Over 500 armed soldiers guard the rhinoceros in Chitiwan National Park The number of rhinos increased from 160 in 1966 to 375 in 1984. There has been no poaching in the park since 1976.

Rhinoceros Attacks

David Uys, who runs a rhino ranch in South Africa and has spent a good portion of his life with animals, told the Los Angeles Times he's been charged countless times and once was knocked over and walked on. Afterward, he recalled, the bull looked almost apologetic. When he did get charged, it was usually his own fault for getting too close, he says. "Running away is the worst thing you can do," he said. "You can't outrun a rhino." If there's a tree or boulder, you scramble up. If there's thick enough bush, you stand your ground. [Source: Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2010]

Robyn Dixon wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Once, photographing a newborn baby, he and a colleague were suddenly approached by the calf. The two men froze. If the mother saw them and charged, there was no bush, no trees, no boulders. "They react to movement so if you stand completely still, they won't see you," Uys said. "The guy who was with me, his nerves didn't hold out, and he started running. The cow saw us and she came for us."There was no time to think."I threw down my backpack. She smelled me there and took her fury out on the backpack," he said. It was one of his closest calls.

Asian Rhino Attacks in Nepal

Attacks by rhinos in Asia are relatively rare in part because the rhinos themselves are so rare and many of those that survive live in remote and forests and jungles where few people go. Most of the attacks in Asia involve Indian rhinoceroses in India or Nepal or take place at a zoo. In February 2010, the Kathmandu Post reported: An elderly man has been killed in a rhino attack in Nawalparasi district of southern Nepal. The wild animal attacked Asamdhar Sigdel of Kumarbati VDC-1 while he was on his way to fetch water at 6 this morning, according to locals. [Source: The Kathmandu Post, February 15, 2010]

In January 2011, a rhino in Nepal was sent to 'jail' for killing man. The Hindustan Times reported: “A rhino in Nepal is undergoing “imprisonment” for past one year for killing a man. Authorities at Bardia National Park in western Nepal have kept this blind one-horned rhino called Vikram in a small enclosure measuring 1 katha (720 square feet) for killing a 60-year-old priest. An orphan, the rhino was brought to Bardia from Chitwan National Park in 2002 after residents of nearby villages had badly injured the sightless animal. [Source: Hindustan Times, January 28, 2011]

Due to his blindness, Vikram, used to be popular among visitors to the park. Many used to get close to him and click photographs. Nepal Army personnel posted at the park for security purposes and staff of Bardia National Park also grew fond of Vikram. But that was till it attacked Man Bahadur Rana, priest of a local Hindu temple. Vikram’s jail term began after the "victim" succumbed to injuries. “Even we feel bad to keep such a docile animal in confinement. But we have no option because he might attack humans again if left free,” the Nagarik daily quoted Ramesh Thapa, a park official. Another official stated that Vikram used to roam freely for around 15 kilometres daily inside the park. But nowadays, he just keeps moving around in the closed enclosure. Vikram will remain in “prison” for another five months after which he will be shifted to another part of the park. [Ibid]

Asian Rhino Attacks in India

In October 2011, the Indian Express reported: “A male rhino which strayed from Gorumara Reserve Forest attacked a photographer and flung him in the air several times while he was trying to click the animal’s pictures. According to Forest officials, the incident happened after the photographer, Deepankar Ghatak tried to click the animal’s pictures by going very near to him. Prior to this incident, the rhino had frightened the villagers in Fatakpara to death by charging at them menacingly. A large number of onlookers at the spot made it difficult for the forest officials to push the animal into the forest. [Source: Express News Service, October 4, 2011]

The rhino had come out of the Gorumara Reserve Forest in the morning and had taken shelter between Jaldhaka and Betegada areas of Mainaguri block of Jalpaiguri. The photographer along with a few others took a boat ride and crossed two streams to locate the animal. While he was taking the pictures, the animal rushed to him and flung him high. Raj K Mahtolia, the chief conservator of Forest (wildlife), North Bengal told The Indian Express the photographer was lucky to have saved his life. He has sustained injuries in thighs and back and is admitted in a nursing home. No internal injuries have been reported. The next day, the one-horned rhino was escorted deep inside the Gorumara Forest Reserve with four trained Kunki Elephants. “Our patrol party and the animals followed the footsteps and the animal was left deep inside the Forest,” Raj K Mahtolia, the chief conservator of Forest (wildlife), North Bengal told The Indian Express over telephone.

In October 2007, a rhinoceros killed a man in Lucknow zoo in Indian. UNI reported: “Vinod (32) who had entered the enclosure of a rhino to collect a kite was mauled to death by the animal. This is the second such case in more than a decade. Authorities at Lucknow zoological park were informed last night that a man from the neighbouring Narhi area had entered the zoo to pick up a kite which landed inside. When Vinod did not return, the zoo authorities and local peoplemounted a search. The next morning the zoo-keepers found Vinod's wounded body inside the rhino's enclosure. A zoo official said he was killed by the beast. Incidentally, the same rhino had killed a zoo vet in 1996. [Source: United News of India, October 14, 2007]

Indian Rhino Attacks in the Kaziranga National Park Area in Assam in India

In January 2012, The Times of India reported: “In the second incident within a week, a rhino strayed out of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and attacked a vehicle on National Highway 37 in Upper Assam's Golaghat district, official sources said. The full-grown male rhino strayed out of the park along the animal corridor and attacked the vehicle which was substantially damaged though none of the three passengers were injured. The rhino was, however, injured as blood stains were found on the car but it moved back into the park.

The vehicle was on its way to Golaghat from Guwahati. This is the second incident of a rhino straying out of the park within a week with the animal injuring two persons in neighbouring Jorhat district on Tuesday. The one-horned rhinoceros come out of the Park in Golaghat district, lost its direction back and moved 45 km away into Jorhat district. Being chased by people the pachyderm entered Napomua village, about 15 km from Jorhat town, and attacked two farmers injuring them. [Source: Times of India, January 19, 2012]

In January 2009, PTI reported: One person was killed by a rhino that strayed from Kaziranga national park today in Upper Assam's Jorhat district. A group of about five rhinos had come out of Kaziranga park in neighbouring Golaghat district and two of them moved along the riverine areas towards Asia's largest river island Majuli in Jorhat district, forest sources said. [Source: Press Trust of Indian, January 19, 2009]

In July 2003, AP reported: “Fierce flood waters washed a rhinoceros out of a national park into a nearby village, where the disoriented beast attacked and killed a young man, in monsoon rains that have killed at least 579 people in South Asia. More than 100 of this year's deaths in India have been in Assam state, home to the Kaziranga National Park, the world's only natural habitat for the rare one-horned rhino. Several animals fleeing floods in the reserve have been killed crossing highways or by running into poachers. [Source: Wasbir Hussain, Associated Press, July 21, 2003]

A full-grown rhino, swept out of the park by rushing waters on Thursday, landed on a riverbank in the village of Ghatupara in Darrang district, about 55 miles north of the state capital, Gauhati, police said. "A villager gathering grass was passing by the area when the rhino charged at him and killed him,'' on Sunday, police officer P. Dahdhora said. Four elephants with their handlers, and 10 forest guards hunted for the rhino as a funeral procession went through the village to bury the dead man, Qutubuddin Ahmad.

African Rhino Attacks

Attacks by rhinoceros in Africa are more common, particularly involving black rhinos which have a reputation for orneriness. In June 2012, The Herald reported: A ranger from the Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock, South Africa was gored by a rhino during a routine patrol of the park yesterday. Donovan Antonie, 28, was in a stable condition in the St George’s Hospital in Port Elizabeth last night. Three other rangers on patrol with Antonie when they surprised the rhino---which was thought to have just given birth---escaped injury. [Source: The Herald, June 14, 2012]

“Antonie was flown from the Cradock Hospital to Nelson Mandela Bay with chest and stomach injuries. His mother Rhina Allens said, "Details of the attack are still sketchy. I was told that he was attacked by a rhino which had just had a baby. "He has bruises on his chest and the doctors say the impact could have caused severe internal injuries, so he has been transferred to St George’s for more X-rays and tests. I still don’t know what led to the attack.” She said Antonie, her eldest son, had always been passionate about working with animals. "I don’t know if the attack will lessen his love of animals.” [Ibid]

“Park spokeswoman Megan Taplin said such an attack was rare as rhinos had poor vision and usually only charged when they felt threatened. "It came out from behind the bush. It was startled and so were the rangers, who were on a routine patrol,” Taplin said. "It seems as though the rhino charged because it was surprised by the rangers...We are just thankful that there were no further injuries, as the other rangers managed to get out of the way in time. Rhinos do not usually attack.” Taplin said the rhino which had charged the rangers would not be euthanased as there was nothing wrong with it---it had simply been surprised by the four men. [Ibid]

In September and October 2004, two people were gored by rhinos in South Africa. SAPA reported: A second person has been gored by a black rhino in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal nature conservation authorities said. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's Jeff Gaisford said that in the latest incident Mandlenkosi Magubane (33), one of a group of contract workers clearing alien vegetation in the reserve, stumbled upon a black rhino which attacked him. Gaisford said the workers had seen the rhino earlier, but waited for him to leave before starting their work. A spokesperson for Empangeni Garden Clinic, Venessa Fourie, said Magubane was in a stable condition in the intensive care unit after emergency surgery earlier in the week. She said the rhino had punctured Magubane’s back and had several broken ribs. [Source: South African Press Association (SAPA) October 7, 2004]

Two weeks ago Kirsten Bond, a University of Port Elizabeth zoology research assistant, was gored by a black rhino while preparing dung samples in a boma in the reserve as part of the Black Rhino expansion project. Her family said she sustained multiple trauma to her legs and lower torso. Bond underwent two operations and is on a ventilator in the ICU in a Richards Bay hospital. Gaisford said the two incidents were “completely unrelated” and happened 30 kilometers apart.

In November 2011, SAPA reported: A man was attacked by a black rhino near the south end of the Kruger National Park in Limpopo said paramedics. The man, a game ranger at the park, was rammed by the rhino while patrolling on foot, said ER24 spokesperson Derrick Banks.The rhino's horn punctured his left arm and he suffered bumps to the head and bruised ribs on his left side, said Banks. "He is very lucky not to have sustained much more serious injuries," Banks said. The man, 44, was taken to hospital in a stable condition. [Source: SAPA, November 2, 2011]

In August, 2012 a woman who was attacked by a female cow on a farm outside Bela-Bela, South Africa. SAPA reported: “Purette van Heerden, 42, an animal conservation enthusiast, had volunteered to help with the relocation of a rhino calf and her cow to a game reserve in Limpopo. She was standing in a holding pen with her daughter, 21, watching farm employees dart the rhino cow and her calf, when another rhino charged at her, and repeatedly "rolled her around," Beeld reported. The rhino cow stopped when her daughter screamed. "I was able to actually pull myself upright, holding onto the rhino's horn," Van Heerden said. She sustained multiple fractures to her pelvis, and later received emergency treatment in a Pretoria hospital. "Animals are my passion, and when I'm well again, I'll continue to help them... the accident was entirely my fault -- I was in their territory," she said. [Source: SAPA, August 23, 2012]

More African Rhino Attacks

In October 2007, SAPA reported: “A Kagiso man died when he was attacked by a rhinoceros at a Krugersdorp game reserve. "I heard a man cry on the side where rhinos were. When I went to look, I just saw it throwing him in the air and mauling him," said Teboho Phalafala, an eyewitness. Phalafala went to raise the alarm, but when help arrived Zwane Lehane, 41, was dead. It was not known why the rhino attacked him. Lehane was a worker at the Mount Savana Game Reserve, located on a farm. He had no visible injuries. Phalafala said rhinos were allowed to freely roam the property to protect it from thieves. Vehicles were normally used to take workers to their posts, but their bakkie did not arrive on Saturday and it was thought Lehane decided to walk instead. He said workers asked that the animals be fenced in after a woman died in a rhino attack last year. [Source: SAPA, October 20, 2007]

In March 2011, A worker on a game farm has been gored by a rhino in the North West, the SABC reported. Dumisa Seshabela of North West Tourism told the SABC that the incident occurred while the man accompanied a group of hunters on the game farm. The man sustained injuries to his ribs and left thigh. [Source: SABC March 9, 2011]

In October 2005, news services reported that a black rhino bull, a resident of the famous Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya's Nairobi National Park, fatally gored a keeper and charged other sanctuary staff before being shot dead. [Source: October 21, 2005]

In November 2007, The Cape Times reported: “Two Dutch tourists were lucky to escape with their lives when a black rhino attacked them in the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa, clambering on to the bonnet of their hired car in a bid to ram them. The incident, believed to have involved an adult male rhino, has been described by wildlife experts as "unprecedented", while staff at Addo say it is the first recorded incident of a wild animal damaging a tourist vehicle in the the park. [Source: Guy Rogers, Cape Times, November 20, 2007]

Studying and Capturing Rhinos

Rhinos don't like radio collars. They stress the animal and are expensive. Trackers can identify individual rhinos by variations in foot prints. In Zimbabwe tracks of individual rhinos are marked with a global positioning devises and entered in a data base. The range and movements of the rhinos can be traced using this method.

Rhinoceros that are darted from helicopters are administered enough antidote to induce a semiconscious state. The animals eyes and ears are covered and it led to by team of several dozen men on the ground.. Before launching operation to capture rhinoceros in Nepal, local shaman are hired to ward off evil spirits and a black goat was sacrificed in the forest to Bani Devi---the goddess of the jungle and patron of the rhino hinters

Conservationists Heimanta Raj Mishra and Eric Dinerstein, participated in an elephant mounted operation to dart and move several rhinos from one game park to another in Nepal. "Within 40 minutes we located the female," they wrote, "but she was nearly two miles from our darting site, requiring us to escort her through a sea of elephant-high grass. We encircled the female rhino and like Pleistocene cowboys herded her gently to the darting site--- about 45 minutes away.

"The dart, propelled by a .22-caliber charge, contained an extremely potent derivative of morphine, known as M99, mixed with a bit of tranquilizer. This knockout cocktail enabled us to immobilize the two-ton animals with a few drops. More important, the effects of the drug could be reversed immediately with an antidote if respiration dropped below safe levels." The dart has a needle over two inches long so it can piece the hide of rhino.

"After being struck by the dart "the rhino summoned her dimming wits and charged the elephants in an attempt to escape into the thick forest beyond the wall of pachyderms. The elephant met her challenge and trumpeted loudly. The rhino panicked and swerved, desperately trying to outflank them. Quick-footed elephants, posted at the edge of the jungle for just such an event, contained the rhino like outside linebackers until larger ones came up to reencircle the animal. Perhaps resigned to its fate, the rhino stopped in its three-toed tracks and grudgingly lay down....A sharp kick delivered to the rhino's buttocks and lack of any response convinced us the animal was out cold. We moved swiftly to cover the animal's eyes and plugged its ears with coils of cotton to keep it calm."

A front end loader and crane were used to get the rhino in the truck 'The loader scooped out several cubic yards of earth next to the sleeping rhino and the workers slid it into the ditch on a four-meter long wooden sledge. After she was roped into place, the front end loader pushed the rhinoceros to the edge of the crate. The sledge, connected by a strong torsion cable to a winch, was hauled into the open crate. We then closed the door of the crate and administered the antidote." The sturdy sal wood crates were then lifted onto a truck with a crane for the 18-hour trip to the new park.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated November 2012

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