Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Wilds, Part 4

Long ago I promised more photos from my trip to the Wilds, and I'm sorry they've been so long in coming. I gathered and organized photos for this post for a while this evening, painstakingly sorting through many to find "just the right ones" to share. I then discovered that I had already chosen pictures for this post weeks ago and had even put them in their own little "album," leaving them there to sit until I got up the steam to make a productive post about them. Oh well. Going through the pictures again helped to jog my memory about the things I wanted to tell.

Today I'm focusing on the 2 species of rhinoceros that they manage at the Wilds - the Southern white rhinoceros and the Greater one-horned rhinoceros.

We'll start with the Southern white rhino. Here we have a baby rhino and a maternal unit. It may or may not be the baby's mother. Our tour guide told us that the all of the adult females within the herd (don't know if that's the right term for a group of rhinos) collectively help raise the young.

Next we have something that I wasn't able to get a very good shot of, and besides that it's a little bit gross. This is a couple of huge piles of rhino dung.

Once again, our ever-knowledgeable tour guide told us that the rhinos are "communal poopers," meaning they all poop in the same place. Apparently the rhinos can read the scents of the poo pile like a book (perhaps more aptly like a phone book or Blackberry), and can tell which rhino was there last, if someone from an outside group came in, when the females are in heat, etc. I prefer to get such information from conversations, thank you. Interestingly, the poo piles (they were all over the place) did not stink.

These are just some profile shots of a Southern white rhino grazing.

Some other cool facts about these rhinos are:
  • The word "white" in their name is actually a misinterpretation of the Afrikaans word used to describe the rhinos mouth - "weit," meaning "wide". Early English settlers in South Africa misunderstood the word and thought it was to mean "white".
  • The white rhino, along with the Greater one-horn rhino, is the largest species of land mammal after the elephant.
  • White rhinos are sometimes called "square-lipped" rhinos due to the shape of their mouth. They are grazers, and this wide, square lip is adapted for such feeding. They lack the hook-type lip found on most other rhino species. A side by side comparison is shown below, with the the Southern white rhino on the left, and the Greater one-horned rhino on the right.

It was also brought to our attention that the Southern white rhinos are relatively poor swimmers, whereas the Greater one-horns are much better adapted to swimming. In fact, they are reportedly the "most amphibious [species] of the living rhinos." Anatomically, the Southern white rhinos head hangs lower in relation to the rest of its body than the Greater one-horn, so they have a harder time getting their head and nose out of the water. (Sorry, no side by side pics to show that!)

Here are the feeding time pictures of the Greater one-horned rhino that I alluded to months ago. It was really great to be able to observe this so up-close and personal.

No you silly rhino, you can't have my radio!

Here, why don't you have an apple instead?

Hey, what do you want now? Are you saying the apples aren't good enough?

I'm telling you, you can't have my boot, either. (I promise it was a love-tap with that boot on his schnozz.)

Yum, apples.... nom nom nom

One of these things is not like the other... The male Sika deer in the background says "Don't mind me, I'm just wandering around."

In addition to apples, they get some pellet-type food.

Other Greater one-horned rhino facts:
  • Also known as the Indian or Nepalese rhinoceros due to the species's range.
  • Rhino horns are, like our fingernails, made of keratin (this is true of all rhino species).
  • Their folds of skin look like armor, and are bumpy and tough... but the skin underneath those folds is silky smooth. How do I know? Because I GOT TO TOUCH ONE!
This is the last, and closest, picture I got of the Southern white rhino

On our last morning at the Wilds we were very fortunate to be able to spend some time at their Rhino facility, VERY up-close and personal with both species of rhinos. We got to hand feed this Southern white rhino apples (if we wanted, of course.... and of course I SO WANTED TO!), and we were also allowed an opportunity to touch and pet both species. Too awesome for words.

I should mention that anyone who goes to the Wilds for a visit should NOT expect to be able to visit the Rhino facility, unfortunately. They were kind enough to allow us this close so that we could have an excellent photo opportunity with them, and I am very grateful for that opportunity.

I thought this was going to be the end of my sharing of pictures and information about my trip to the Wilds, but maybe not. As I was looking through the photos again, I realized I still have lots of cool shots that I could share.

Also, I recently learned that the Jividens will be facilitating not 1, but 2 Photo Camps at the Wilds in autumn 2009. If you live in or near Ohio and would like the opportunity to experience these animals in a way conducive to photographing them, I would highly recommend this program. Check the Wilds website for more details.



Shellmo said...

Wow - I thought you were in Africa - gorgeous photos of the Rhino - and very interesting info on them. Despite their appearance - they do have sweet faces. The Wilds seems like the type of place i would love to visit! Thank you for sharing this!

RuthieJ said...

OMG Heather, those photos are SO amazing! It must have been so cool to see those rhinos up close. You don't get a real idea of how huge they are until you see them standing next to that pickup truck and their head is as high as the top of the cab!

Heather said...

-Shellmo: Everyone's first reaction to these photos is to think I was in Africa. That's one of the awesome things about the Wilds - you get a safari experience without ever leaving the U.S.!

-Ruthie: It was absolutely so cool to see them so close, and even cooler to be able to touch one and to hand-feed another.