First of all, I want to take a moment to apologize for being so irregular on my postings. I have received some comments that lead me to understand that I have some faithful readers out there, and I appreciate that. By and large, I tend to be bi-weekly on my postings and I’ll do my best to get back to that habit. And now. . . about the rhinos.
In Mark of the Lion, and to some extent in Stalking Ivory, rhinos are featured as being dangerous animals. And many “big game hunters” list them in “The Big 5,” a listing of African animals responsible for the most deaths. So are rhinos getting a false billing here?
Not necessarily. Rhinos are solitary animals and like to hide in ravines or brushy thickets where they have some protection from the sun and possible predators. In the hottest months, they tend to be more active at night according to older reports. That adds up to mean they are easily stumbled upon. Rhinos also have very bad eyesight, but excellent hearing and sense of smell. They do charge readily when they hear or smell something they consider a potential threat, and in the natural world, most everything would run away from them when that happens. People either don’t run away, or they can’t run fast enough. Hence, the deadly encounters.
Blaney Percival, the game warden for the East African Protectorate, was on safari and got up to relieve himself in the middle of the night when a rhino charged past him into the camp. It slammed into his tent, which Blaney was sharing with another man. After demolishing the tent, the rhino ran off. Blaney found his own bed obliterated and his tent mate uninjured but covered in sticky jam. The rhino had stomped on a jar of it and it blew apart, covering the remaining man. He is reported to have asked Blaney, “Is it a tornado?”
A horned tornado would not be a bad description of a rhino once it made contact with something, but the animals were also protected and could not be shot without a license, even in 1920 East Africa. When a Permanent Way Inspector was charged in court with shooting a rhino, he claimed self-defense. The statement was accepted, but the man still had to turn over all his trophies of the animal to the Game Department. (Of course, in Mark of the Lion, Avery Dunbury had all his proper licenses and permits.)
Next time: More animal lore