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Save a Ngorongoro Rhino – pay the penalty

The reflecting laugh of  hyenas was engulfing the Ngorongoro crater. a struggling mother rhino was trying to keep her baby alive, while a number of hyenas were gathering around, with still more coming because of the calling laughter from the ones already there, to get some meat for dinner.

Three male hyenas were fighting to pull the baby rhino away from her mothers protective comfort as 12 others were tearing the mother away.

Some minutes into the tremendous fight the mother rhino was so exhausted she had to succumb to the claims of her rivals. The dust was now flowing through the air and nobody had a clear vision any longer.

Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania is one of the last places in Africa where you are most likely to spot the rare and endangered black rhino in its natural habitat. During a safari the safari guides must be attentive in their scouting for rhinos, since many clients feel their safari will be unulfilled without this famous prehistorical built animal.

For many years Tanzania has been striving to enhance the rhino population, and the Ngorongoro crater has been a helping factor in this work. Still, for a number of reasons like nature inbalance and survival of the fittest, the rhino is close to extinction. Rhinos are very gentle creatures and they only charge intruders if they feel threatened. Their solitary behaviour, keeping for themselves untill mating season or till they are together with their baby, makes them vulnerable in many ways. The ongoing flow of hyena packs in Ngorongoro is a big threath to rhinos, they eat everything in their way, including dung beetles, month-old bones and carcases to baby elephants. And, both in good and in bad, Tanzania have restrictions  on wildlife safari guides and tourists interference with the natural destiny of animals in the preserved areas and national parks. As we know: Only rhino should wear its horns!

When the battle started indicating a surrendering mother, we could feel within the number of rhinos declining. We were slow to react as we considered the consequences an intervention would have, for example the big penalty of offroading in a conservation area. Nobody wanted to commit that crime even though we were all sad seeing a specie moving closer and closer to extinction. We were three safari guides/drivers at the scene, and we were all communicating through the radio about the happening. We were quiet for a couple of minutes untill a voice on the radio suddenly screamed: Guys, just do something! This is not good! Save the rhino, pay the penalty!!

A second later we were three cars rushing out offroad in the grass with dust completing us, looking like a big storm going towards the laughing hyenas. The baby was already down on the ground, surrounded by hyenas waiting to lock their powerful jaws on the rich flesh of the baby rhino.  Feeling the adrenaline pumping through my veins, only hearing my own heartbeat, eventually the screams of excited clients, and the beautiful feeling of success flowing through me seeing the hyenas running away, we suddenly became aware of the angry rhino mother who now saw the three charging cars as an immediate threat, charging at the cars. One of the jeeps was hit badly twice, but nobody was hurt. We escaped hastily, and continued to follow the hyenas so they would not turn around and keep on hunting the baby after we left.
 We were now pleased with our accomplishment, but our smiles lowered when we saw a ranger with a gun closing in on us. He argued that we should surrender our permits because of illegal actions, not considering what we had achieved. We were getting really frustrated, untill I remembered; Save the rhino, pay the penalty! We had some hours discussing and explaining to the ranger our intentions and goals, as well as the clients in the cars. Luckily this story had a happy ending, the ranger gave in, and eventually started to appreciate our actions, everything got solved without penalty or any consequences.
 The rhino survived, and maybe this contributed to a increase of the rhino population. You should never intervene in nature, this is something basic that we learn in college, but sometimes you should trust your own instincts and do what you think is right. Better save a life and do something wrong, than seeing somebody getting killed and doing something right.

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