If the rhino charges...
Penny Fredericksen hikes through southern Nepal to seek out and photograph the Indian rhinoceros
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia.
The park – which is situated approximately 150km southwest of Kathmandu – is home to the royal Bengal tiger, sloth bear, clouded leopard, striped hyena, one-horned Indian rhino, wild boar, deer, monkey, gharial (crocodile) and more than 450 species of birdlife, and can all been seen in their natural habitat.
I had gone to southern Nepal to photograph the Indian rhinoceros, which once roamed the entire northern part of India. It was late afternoon, my legs were tired and the mosquitos were busy – but I could clearly see a huge, “armour-plated” rhino with wart-like bumps on its legs, neck, shoulders and rump, munching on grass in an open clearing, nestled within the woodland.
My research had revealed that Chitwan – “The Heart of The Jungle” – had also been a favourite hunting reserve with British royals, but they were not into “shooting” with cameras. On one safari in 1911, they managed to kill 39 tigers and 18 rhinos!
“SHH!” WHISPERED OUR GUIDE. “IF THE RHINO CHARGES, WE CLIMB A TREE.”
After two days of hiking through the jungle and traveling by canoe, I stared in amazement at this rhino who was one of only 500 one-horned Indian rhinos left, with rangers and armed guards spread across Chitwan National Park to protect it and its 499 friends from poachers.
Local communities benefit financially from employment and also from licenses from tour and lodge companies, entrance and park fees, established in the hope of curbing and stopping poaching.
“Shh!” whispered our guide. “If the rhino charges, we climb a tree.”
As the rhino sensed our presence, I stopped photographing him to quickly survey where precisely I was to climb if he did decide to charge!
With renowned poor eyesight – but with a good sense of smell and hearing and also the ability to run very quickly – I hoped this animal would find it difficult to see the only tree worth climbing, and focus its attention on the other members of our tour group who were busy chatting.
It did cross my mind that an Indian rhino charging some western tourists would make an excellent photograph, but I was not about to try my luck and instead, retreated to the safety of the woodlands.
Now was a time to sit in silence and watch this magnificent animal go about its business of eating the sweet, fresh grass.
I wondered how people could continue to kill and slaughter this animal – this time not as a trophy to have stuffed and placed on a wall, but for a horn used in traditional medicine in Asia.
Hopefully, this one-horned Indian rhino will be worth more alive than dead.
Penny travelled with Intrepid Travel.
Penny Frederiksen, who lives in rural Australia, writes for online women’s magazine, Glam Today Magazine, where she hopes to inspire readers to travel and explore the world. She is a regular contributor for publications in Russia, SE Asia and the UK. Her love affair with travel and photography started at a young age – inspired by National Geographic magazines at her local dentist! Penny’s independent, solo travel started about 10 years ago. She enjoys traveling to exotic locations, showing other women that with planning and confidence, they can visit worldly destinations on their own. www.thetravelwriters.net/pennyfrederiksen Facebook www.facebook.com/penny.travelwriter Twitter @Pennytrvlwriter
Green Adventures August 2015