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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : August 2001 : Guard survives run-in with irate rhino

Guard survives run-in with irate rhino

By Maggi Barnard
The Namibian/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX
August 6, 2001

Mannetjie Ganaseb is probably the only person in Namibia who can claim to have been trapped underneath a wild, black rhino and lived to tell the tale.

Ganaseb, the Manager of Save The Rhino (STR) Trust's camel patrol team, was lucky to escape with his life after a close encounter with a black rhino cow and her calf near Khowarib in the Kunene region last month. He miraculously survived several charges by the over-protective mother. His clothes were torn off his back by the rhino's horn and he ended up being trapped underneath the 1,5 ton wild animal.

As an afterthought the calf of five months also charged him, but jumped right over Ganaseb who was lying flat on the ground.

An excited Ganaseb, who has worked for STR for 13 years, told The Namibian over the weekend that it was the first time an STR employee had had such a close encounter with a rhino.

It started when Ganaseb and Gabriel Ganuseb left Khowarib on July 5 on a camel patrol. The next day they followed the tracks of three rhinos at Kamutati and caught up with them by 10h30. They then moved camp to Mike's Spring and on July 7 found the tracks of the cow and calf.

As the area was very bushy and there were elephants behind the rhinos they only pursued them the following morning. At 13h00 they unexpectedly came across the two. The had left the camels at the base camp and were tracking with donkeys.

Ganaseb had two donkeys tied together as the one was a pack-donkey, while Gabriel only had one donkey.

"There was a small and a large euphorbia [bush] in front of us and we were focusing on the large euphorbia as the rhinos usually lie behind the large ones," Ganaseb recalled.

This time they were behind the small euphorbia and when he was about five steps away the cow suddenly stood up.

"There was nothing I could do, I got such a big fright that I could only shout 'hey!'" Gabriel immediately started fleeing on his donkey.

"I knew the moment I turned my donkeys around the rhino will come for us and probably jab us with her horn."

But Suzie, as the rhino is known, snorted and the donkeys turned and fled.

Ganaseb said she first chased after Gabriel but after 200m he saw her coming in his direction. She stumbled over a ridge of loose stones. He started barking like a dog as loud as he could as the sound usually frightens rhinos away, but it did not work.

All that was left for him to do was to lie down flat on the donkey and close his eyes. Ganaseb saw Suzie's horn was higher than the donkey and he did not want to be in its way. She ran into the donkey from behind and then passed them.

She charged for a second time from behind into the hind legs of the donkey and lifted the donkey up with her horn.

"I do not know what happened next, but probably I fell off as the donkey was lifted up."

The next thing he remembers was bumping his head against something when he tried to get up - it was the belly of Suzie. Her front legs were next to his head and her hind legs by his ribs. Suzie chased after the two donkeys again without stepping on Ganaseb lying underneath her. All three of them fell, but Suzie got up quickly and went to her calf.

"If it was not for the donkeys who received all her attention, I would not have been here today," a wide-eyed Ganaseb said.

Ganaseb was still trying to stop his nose from bleeding when Gabriel shouted that the calf was charging.

"I could not get up, and lay flat on the ground. She jumped right over my legs and went to her mother."

Ganaseb could still not get up and when Gabriel helped him they discovered his knee-cap was dislocated and that he had no clothes on his back side. They realised that Suzie had torn the clothes off his body with her horn during the first charge when he was lying on the donkey. When he fell off the donkey his knee-cap moved. He was also covered in Suzie's mucus.

"As she was charging and blowing through her nose, I just felt her spraying mucus all over me."

After this ordeal, Ganaseb still had to get back to the base camp about 8km away on the donkey, which he had great difficulty mounting. From Mike's Spring the nearest clinic was another 200 km away. As the only photographer in the team, he still managed to take 13 photographs of rhinos on their way to the clinic. It took them another seven days to reach the clinic - on July 15 - only to find there was no nurse available. Ganaseb said he is not afraid of rhinos after this experience.

He said he feels there is now a strong bond between him and Suzie which will last until the day he dies. He admitted though that he would like some revenge.

The next time he sees her he will keep on tracking her until she is tired so that she can recognise him. Ganaseb said he wanted to call Suzie's calf, Theresia, but she has been renamed Khoes, the Nama-Damara word for woman.

While he was trapped under Suzie he thought of his baby girl of five days. He has decided to call her !Nawas, which means rhino.

Copyright © 2001, Africa News Service, all rights reserved.



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