Most of my time during work is made up of driving around checking waterholes for fresh signs that an elusive and grumpy beast was there during the hours I spend sleeping.
If I am successful, my hours are then spent getting off the vehicle and going in search of this big grey lump of crankiness.
However, these recent months have seen me move towards another path, putting these prehistoric beasts into boxes and shipping them off to another reserve. And why have I been doing this? The answer is quite simple. Rain, or lack thereof.
When people stop to find out what we are doing and why we are doing it, my answer usually goes along the lines of “we are moving these rhino to another reserve because of the drought.”
The next words out of their mouths are usually “but all the waterholes we have been to are full.” This usually doesn’t get answered as I am rather focused on not being in the way of the rhino we are releasing. So this is where I will attempt to rectify their confusion.
When an area is going through a drought, different types of animals have different problems that they encounter. Predators generally enjoy it as their prey is weaker, their buffet just got a lot more plentiful. Herbivores that eat leaves struggle, but there are usually enough leaves on trees for them to eat. Herbivores that eat grass struggle the most. Grass requires water to grow, so it’s quite logical that with no water there will be no grass, and with no grass, all the things that eat grass will go on a bit of a diet.
Now if there is no rain for an extended period, that diet becomes a bit too extreme, especially for the animals that need a lot of grass to survive. And White rhinos need A LOT of grass. So, in essence, even though a drought is characterised by a lack of water, a lack of water isn’t usually the problem. Lack of grass is.
So what can one do when there is no food for an animal? Usually there are two options: 1 – take food to the animal, and 2 – take the animal to food. Option 1 isn’t really an option, as farmers are also affected by the drought, so there is no food to take to the animals (and any food there was, was almightily expensive). Enter option 2.
Thus the last two months I have moved from searching for rhinos, to letting rhinos out of boxes so that they can get nice and fat again (in a new location). If rain doesn’t come soon, my Jason Statham days of rhino moving are far from over.