Yao Ming meets white rhino and director Rick Barongi at the Houston Zoo
Say “No” to Rhino Horns!
That’s the message that retired Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming has for his fans back home, many of whom believe that rhino horn has powerful tonic or curative properties. Unfortunately, these traditional, but mistaken, beliefs have fueled an increasing international trade in rhino horn that ultimately threatens the survival of the world’s five remaining rhino species. Yao visited Kenya last year to observe the desperate situation firsthand. He is working closely with the organizations Wild Aid and the African Wildlife Foundation to stop rhino and elephant poaching by creating public awareness of the slaughter involved in bringing illegal horn and ivory to market. Billboards at airports across China and graphic online videos tell the gruesome story and present stark statistics to would-be consumers. The campaign slogan – When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too!
In Houston to attend the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, Yao stopped in for a visit to the Houston Zoo, where he met one of the resident white rhinos and zoo director Rick Barongi. Rick is also a board member of the International Rhino Foundation and serves as vice president for African programs.
Photo taken by Stephen Belcher at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra Indonesia, April 2009.
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
I was lucky enough to get permission to visit the SRS (Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary) in April 2009.
A hot sticky rain forest may seem like the last place to find a distant relative of the woolly rhino but here I was in Sumatra listening to the cracking of branches as it moved towards me. As it got closer I remembered what Inov my guide from the IRF (International Rhino Foundation) told me earlier, this rhino had broken the arm of the IRF president a month earlier. Being stuck knee high in mud doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvring so I just stayed still. Out of the thick forest in front of me emerged a female Sumatran rhino, she stopped and raised her head to smell the air and them moved towards me. Thinking this was a good time to get out of the way of an inquisitive 400 kg rhino I made for the nearest tree and stood behind it. As she moved passed she looked like she had a size too big a suit of skin. The Sumatran rhino has a distinct skin fold over its shoulders and the skin seems to almost ride over the body. Using her strong legs she pushed back into the jungle.
An unique feature about the Sumatran Rhino is that it is very vocal. They make 3 distinct calls. Eeps, whales and whistle-blows. The “whale “ call is so named because it sounds like the call of a humpback whale (Perhaps another name for these small-endangered rhinos might be the Humpbacks of the Jungle). I can vouch for this personally. One rhino, Rosa (a female wild rhino at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary) will do this for sometime and I was able to call back to her while trekking and photographing her in thick jungle, holding a “conversation” with her for more than 30 minutes, something I didn’t expect to be able to do! The purpose of these calls is not fully understood, they are most likely to help the rhinos communicate with other individuals (they are solitary animals) in the thick forest.
This was clicked early in the morning at around 7 AM in the eastern state of Assam in India. We were on elephants to see the majestic Indian Rhino. Pabitora is a small sanctuary as compared to the bigger Kaziranga, and there has been no poaching there since the last 2-3 years.
Photo taken on 27 september 2007 in South Africa at Chitwa Chitwa Game Park.
Photo settings: Nikon D200, ISO250
1/500, f/4.0, 70-200 mm
This picture was taken in the early morning hours in Chitwa Chitwa. It’s a private game park bordering to the famous Krugerpark. Like us, the guide was delighted to spot a rhino with calf. The day before, following a sky black with vultures, we had discovered the decaying corps of a rhino in a dried riverbed. Five young ‘crazy’ male lions were feeding on it and the guide told us how weird it was for lions to kill a rhino. He suspected the animal to have been ill or wounded. We actually checked for the horn to be intact. It was.
“Alive is better then death” was his short conclusion when we saw this happy family. Me and my nose couldn’t agree more.
This week’s photo is by Flickr user Rob Wakefield of Stirling, Scotland.
Location: Lake Nakuru, Kenya.
Camera Settings: Auto – I used a compact. It was closest to hand at the time.
The story is that we were on safari in Kenya for our Honeymoon having just been married six days previously (hence I wasn’t wanting to spend too much time faffing around with cameras and the compact was close to hand). We had been given our own private safari van because we were honeymooners, and our driver had taken us to Lake Nakuru on our way to the Masai Mara. I’m still not sure if it was a detour but it was the only place with Rhino that we went to. It was amazing and well worth it if it was a detour.