Close Encounters with a Rhinoceros

Being only a few yards away from a fully grown Rhino gave me a good opportunity to take some great shots. I was grateful for the deep lake that was all that separated us but it was enough. I presume that Rhinos can’t swim!

This was my first visit for several weeks, the sun was shining, the skies blue and I was really looking forward to it. As usual I was not disappointed. After the obligatory coffee and croissant I walked around the park passing numerous school parties before arriving at the best viewing point for the Rhinos and Zebras. I was rewarded for my patience as one of the Rhino turned to face me and then walked towards me stopping directly in front for a drink at the waters edge.

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Soon it was joined by the other Rhino who nuzzled in for what I assume passes for a Rhino hug. These really are huge animals and I certainly would not like to be that close to them in the wild.  Southern White Rhino grow to a whopping 4000kg, once thought to be extinct, their numbers have grown to around 15,000 thanks to nearly a century of protection.  Sadly there are still too many cases of them being hunted and killed for pleasure or for their horns which are revered for their medicinal qualities in the far east. We still need to be vigilant in our support for their preservation.

After several minutes they wandered off to be replaced by Zebras.

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After this I wandered around the parc, enjoying the sunshine and the animals, many of whom were relaxing in the shade, or hiding altogether. This prompted me to take a close look at the Pelicans who, conversely, were sunning themselves at the edge of the pool. These are, I think, Great White Pelicans which are very large birds growing to between 5-6ft long including the beak, with a colossal wing span of 7-11 ft! As I watched them I was saddened by the fact that I would never see these particular pelicans fly as their wings had been clipped. An obvious necessity, but nevertheless sad. At one point two of them set off from the bank and performed a perfect synchronised swimming routine, swimming side by side, diving and returning to the surface with perfect timing. They kept this up for some time before I was interrupted by a group of young school children who pushed, jostled and shouted continually….Time to move on!

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The amphitheatre was as full as I had ever seen it as I waited for the Bird and Mammal exhibition. I estimated around 400 school children were there as well as the many other visitors. Children and wildlife photography don’t mix very well but it was nice to see their enthusiasm and excitement as the show started. A full display was given today with the Fish Eagle and the Jackal performing, something I haven’t seen for a while, as well as the usual displays.

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My final comment for the day is about the small lake beside the cafeteria. The fish in it have grown to an enormous size, the biggest now measuring about 3ft long.  It is quite spectacular to see these whilst sitting drinking your coffee. Some visitors occasionally drop crumbs into the water, which starts a frenzy of activity as the fish fight for the food. I’m sure this cannot be good for them but maybe it has contributed to their incredible growth.

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