Rhinos: Eye to eye with the giants

Breitmaulnashörner, zwei Kühe, ein Bullenkalb, Nähe Windhoek, Namibia, Heike Pander

White Rhinos, two cows, one bull calf, near Windhoek, Namibia, Heike Pander

Their heavy heads bent low and just above the grass the three beautiful colossi graze their way towards me. They air an aura as if from a long bygone era. Tow rhino cows and a half-grown bull calf enjoy their lunch and feed their way towards me in the dry steppe grass of the Namibian savannah. The only sound is a rhythmic swishing as they pluck off the grass. So far the animals have not discovered me, although I stand no more than 30 meters in front of them. Slowly they graze their way in my direction. The scenery is peaceful, timeless and almost unreal. Their archaic presence is similar to that of elephants or ancient baobab trees. I stand in front of these magnificent animals, one of my dreams has come true. I could cry with happiness.

Heike Pander mit Breitmaulnashörnern, Nähe Windhoek, Namibia, Tobias Sauer

Heike Pander and white rhinos near Windhoek, Namibia, Tobias Sauer

Rhinos have very bad eyesight and are easily terrified. But their hearing and sense of smell are developed much better. I stand there in silence and take in this peaceful scenery. I suppose I am just a tree for the three white rhinos. I am not surprised that they can be skittish at times. One of the animals was shot and wounded by a poacher last year. A ranger said that the wound was healing slowly and that the animal suffered from it for a long time. The scar is still clearly visible.


Poaching is – as in any region in southern Africa – a big problem on this farm. A rhinoceros bull had to undergo treatment because poachers had wounded him with a bullet a few weeks ago. Fortunately, these two animals have survived. The White Rhino I just passed a few minutes ago was less lucky. It’s remains rot not far from my current position. Dried skin stretches over gnawed bones. An ugly hole gapes just above the nose. A sad picture. Before his death, the rhino bull wore a handsome horn – the reason why it had to die. A kilogram of horn costs more than the same weight in gold. The demand for the dubious aphrodisiac in Asian continues is unabated. The myth of potency increase circulates among the users. Instead of rhino, humans could simply chew their toenails: they are made of the same material as the rhinoceros horn. If poachers continue their cruel work at their current speed, these magnificent animals will be extinct in a few years’ time. Forever disappeared from the earth. A horrifying thought.


I moved without intention. Immediately all three heads are up and sniff in my direction. The peaceful giants can become fighting machines at lightning speed if in need to defend themselves. Running away makes no sense now – so I decide speak to the rhinos in a calm, friendly voice. The animals know that I am there and they seem to be used to people – obviously. In my case, that is a blessing, because I do not pose any danger to these beauties. In an encounter with poachers though their trust is a great disadvantage and life-threatening to them. The three relax and adjust their course a little bit. They turn to the right and continue grazing peacefully towards the horizon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *