Africa

Square Lipped (White) Rhinos in Ziwa National Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda

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During my trip to the Ziwa National Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda, I spent about two hours with my forest guard cum guide, trailing Rhinos (a group of three adult females and a delightfully playful calf), often coming face to face, albeit from a short distance, with them.

From a distance of less than 30 meters, on foot and without any barrier in between, it was probably the closest one could get to these magnificent beasts in the wild.

Although less aggressive compared to their smaller, pointed-mouth, thicker-skin, darker, single-horn cousins in India, all Rhinos are known to charge, albeit very rarely. And when they do, they can run up to a speed of 50 km/hour. Quite scary, if you come to think if it.

And unlike the smaller, darker, single-horn rhinos  who are grazers and browsers, the two horned, square lipped rhinos are exclusive grazers, i.e. they eat grass. Their wide mouths are specially adapted for grazing.

These mega-herbivores can’t see very well, but that is well compensated by a keen sense of smell (aided by their wide nostrils) and hearing. It is the largest of the five extant species of Rhinos in the world. Despite their humongous size, they are quick and agile. These rhinos are often wrongly referred to as ‘White Rhinos’, whereas their correct name is  ‘Southern Wide Lipped / Square Lipped Rhino’.

Truth to tell, I was quite scared in their presence – much more than I was, while photographing tree climbing lions, barely 30 feet away from us, from an open safari jeep in the Kidepo Valley National Park.

But it was fear, excitement and unbridled thrill in equal measure.

Now rarely am I impressed with my wildlife photography. I am simply not trained in it, neither do I have the experience, nor the sophisticated photography equipment to do full justice.

Some of these photographs, I however think, are an exception. The moment, the frame, the angle, the light, the background, the mood of the rhinos, the distance between the animals and me – all seem to have conspired to create images of unsurpassed beauty and grandeur. These magnificent creatures seem to have simply turned around and posed for me. It was a moment in time of sheer magic – captured and frozen by chance, in my camera.

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