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01 Jul, 2022
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The big bull bully

The Big Bull Bully!!!- Article by Gareth Jones

The Big Bull Bully In The Nairobi National Park


“Big white rhino bull came up from behind us …suddenly very close….and charged at the young bull that was at the no10 murram waterhole….wow…crazy action moments…the chase went on for over 1km….”🦏🦏 ~ Gareth Jones

A few weeks ago, we drove down towards the murram heaps near No 10 junction. I chose to use the rougher track to approach the area, in the hope of seeing something unusual of interest. About 1 km from the murram heaps we saw a big massive white rhino bull. He was very impressive and calm at the same time, as he slowly moved forward while grazing grass at intervals. I decided to drive on and wait at the waterhole as it was just after 09h00 and many animals normally come to drink around that timing. As we approached the waterhole, we saw another white rhino already drinking at the waterhole. This time it was a smaller younger white rhino bull, who also seemed to be very calm and relaxed. I looked in the direction of the big white rhino bull and saw he was approaching the same waterhole from a distance. So I thought it would be a pleasant experience to also watch him come and drink water, and perhaps even have a rhino mud bath. At the same time, the younger white rhino bull stood quietly about 50 m from the water on a higher mound of earth. The big white rhino bull began to approach the water’s edge, and seemed to be about to quench his thirst, when suddenly, he turned slightly. Then he rapidly accelerated and ran past our parked vehicle at full charging speed towards the young white rhino bull. The young bull rapidly responded by running in a rapid semicircle, on the sandy mounds around our vehicle, while simultaneously squeaking loud alarm calls as only stressed rhinos can, and also combined with the sound of their padded feet drumming against the ground making small exploding mini dust clouds. The big white rhino didn’t slow down, and maintained full charging speed for quite a distance, until they both disappeared over the distant horizon.

It seems that this bigger moody rhino bull was just a “big bully bull” to ensure his dominance over other rhino bulls in the area. White rhino are known to be more social and not as aggressive as the smaller less sociable black rhino, however, the bulls are known to be territorial to ensure their future. Bull testosterone levels tend to elevate when in a fighting mood. What was quite amazing about the whole experience, was that the “big bully bull” looked so seemingly calm and even passive. He then very rapidly “switched” and suddenly became very aggressive and charging at full speed within seconds of sensing the other rhino bull. It was definitely an exciting and also alarming moment when our adrenaline pumped as at one stage the “big bully bull” ran about 5 meters from our car, as he dominantly charged after the younger rhino bull.

What also impressed me that was the young white rhino was standing still about 50 meters away, and not making any noise. When suddenly the “big bully bull” charged directly at him. So the question is, if rhinos are short-sighted, what triggered the aggressive response, was it sensitive smell or sharp hearing? My guess is that it was the younger rhino bull’s pugnant male odour, and a light breeze blowing the same odour towards the big bull, that triggered the dramatically aggressive response. It just goes to show that rhinos have a very powerful sense of smell, almost like a “nose language” that they use to communicate.

Watching the bulls reminded me of the exciting event in October 2009 when the first 10 White Rhinos were successfully translocated to Nairobi National Park from Lake Nakuru National Park. By amazing co-incidence I just happened to be near the Hyena dam just after 18h00 on the evening of the first release, it was a fantastic sight to witness as the first white rhino stepped out of the transport crate. I was also very fortunate to see the first white rhino calf born a few months after their arrival. Over a period of more than 12 years since being translocated, white rhinos are now thriving in the Nairobi National Park. White Rhino are different from Black Rhino in a number of ways, firstly white rhino are considerably larger but more placid than the moody and often aggressive black rhino. White Rhino are grass grazers, while black rhino eat off scrubs and plants. There is absolutely no colour difference in the two subspecies, they are both grey. Their colour appears at times to vary according to whatever mud & sand type is in the area they live in, so they can also be reddish/brownish/yellowish/whitish at times all because of the soil on their skin. The White Rhino gets its name from the Dutch (Afrikaans) “Wyd” meaning wide, due to their square mouths designed for grazing. It appears that the English translators might have not heard correctly and perhaps thought the Dutch settlers say “white”. The White rhino (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest species of rhino, with mature bulls weighing an average of 2300 kg, and record specimens over 3500 kg have been recorded elsewhere in Africa. The gestation period is notably long at 16 months, with a single calf being born. Mature white rhino can live over 40 years in the wild. The black rhino, just named the opposite colour of white, and they have cleft lips designed for eating leaves from bushes. While rhino lack in eyesight, their sense of hearing and smell are very finely tuned to their environment.

It should be noted that many of the white rhino currently in Kenya can trace their family roots back to Northern Natal in South Africa through a successful translocation project several decades ago. Although there have been many challenges, thankfully the Southern White rhino population in Kenya is slowly growing. Perhaps if you listen carefully these White Rhino snort their unique “rhinise” communication language, with a slight South African accent.

Over the years, many people including myself have increasing concern and caring feelings for rhino, especially because of the evil action of slaughtering them, just for their horns. Interestingly, it should be noted that rhino horn has about the same composition as human fingernails. Therefore, it is extremely important that those who consume horn powder must be educated to know that there are absolutely no magical sexual or medical benefits, it is all a huge lie. Thankfully, the Nairobi white rhino population is still thriving, even with some “big bully bulls”. Let’s pray they continue to survive and thrive in this sanctuary.

The Big Bull Bully
Gareth Jones – A passionate writer & photographer
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