A Conservationist's Diary
By Suraj Karthikeya
Today, we went back into the field, trying to track a missing baby Black Rhino, but no luck.
For one, the rhino’s paw tracks are really faint in the ground, and twice we had close calls with very agitated hyenas. And two, our team forgot to attach a tracking collar to its neck, which might’ve been a huge mistake, considering that we wasted an entire afternoon following what we thought was a “very obvious paw print track”.
When we got back in the evening, I went to check on where the other Black Rhinos were, and if they were getting themselves into trouble. Luckily, we remembered to track these ones, unlike the one we just lost.
I checked their position, and none of them were wandering off into the midst of the savanna, as there have been reports of some of these rhinos being hunted down, and that wouldn’t be good. We have sent people to investigate, but the poachers have got a lot of tricks up their sleeve, and seem to “poof away” whenever we get a sight of them.
You might be wondering why I’m leaving such a large gap between my diary entries. Well, to be honest, every day in the life of a conservationist is not worth recording.
But something exciting does happen once in a while, and today was one of those days. Remember that Black Rhino that ran away? Well, today, me and the team were in the vehicle, looking to see if the area is clear for a survey on the rhino population, and guess what? There were 5 rhinos in the area according to the tracking software, but the team counted six. We immediately realised what had happened and started chasing the rogue one. But we didn’t just charge at it, no we instead went carefully, with the intention of making the rhino (I think I better mention its name: Tank) feel safe around us so we can gain its trust and lead it back to the enclosure. But no, Tank had seen what people can do to her kind, and ran away.
We started to chase it, but that thing was fast, like really fast. Eventually it started going too far and into the place where most poachers were sighted. Then there was the noise of another person shouting, and the fire of a rifle.
That noise quite literally froze our blood, and we were all frightened as Tank might have been hunted down, but no, the noise of the rifle scared it so much that in about 5 seconds Tank came running out of the grass, and this time it was running towards the conservation centre. So, to prevent any more close calls, we started to chase it, and soon enough, we got back.
Some of our animal handling professionals calmed it down and led it to its own enclosure, where it can grow up with other juveniles until its strong enough to survive in the savanna on its own, and this time, we put a tracking collar on it.
It’s been over a month since Tank’s adventure, and in fact the story seemed so good that someone decided to spread it on the Internet.
Soon, there were many people online who wanted to support the Black Rhinos and save them from extinction, and with the help of the leads provided by our team, most of the poachers were captured as well. Now, the entire vicinity around our conservation centre is incredibly secure and the rhinos can thrive in peace.
Now, we want to help more animals survive and thrive. And I think we’ll be targeting pangolins next.
By Suraj Karthikeya