Karen Singh, IOL | May 21, 2021
A field guide, who was injured during an encounter with a black rhino and her calf at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in northern Zululand, was discharged from hospital on Thursday.
Two field rangers, Kieran Munns, 22, and Kyle McGarvie, 32 were injured when a black rhino and her calf became aware of the group they were in and approached them.
On Thursday, NPO WildTrust described how the incident unfolded.
A group of Bhejane students and guides, joined by their instructor, Stephen Ingram, who was armed, as well as senior Somkhanda rangers, took part in a daily rhino monitoring exercise on the reserve on Wednesday.
During these exercises, the team locate the rhino and get a visual, which enables the guides to identify the animal and assess its body for snares or injuries.
A black rhino was spotted, using telemetry monitoring, with one of her two calves.
While a distance away from the rhino and her calf, the group noticed that she was aware of them and they pulled back in anticipation that she would try to investigate.
“The rhino continued to approach them, and the group succeeded in deterring the rhino by shouting it down. The rhino veered off into the bush and the monitoring team proceeded to move out of the area.”
Moments later, the rhino approached from a different direction to further investigate the group.
WildTrust said the group looked for cover and for a tree to climb. However, Munns and McGarvie were not able to get out of the way in time.
“Both managed to stay calm and Kyle managed to push himself off the mother, getting knocked by the passing calf, while Kieran got knocked out of the way into a tree by the mother, hitting his head, with the calf following behind running over his legs.”
Both the rhino and her calf then left the area and the team left to assess the injuries.
Munns was awake and conscious. Due to the injuries he sustained it was necessary for him to be assessed for internal injuries while McGarvie did not require medical attention.
WildTrust said Munns was discharged on Thursday, May 20, with bruises and no serious injuries or broken bones.
Munns said that while he was not in a hurry for something like that to happen again, he knew that it came with the territory.
“This is not going to discourage me or stop me from doing guiding. I love what I am doing, and this is just an unfortunate accident that sometimes comes with the job,” he said.
He said it was a learning experience for the group and that he could not wait to get back to work at the reserve.
Dr Roelie Kloppers, the WildTrust chief executive, said everyone operating on Somkhanda adhered to the highest safety standards.
However, Kloppers said the reserve was a wild environment and the chances of dangerous encounters with wildlife were real.
“Luckily, reserve management and IPSS (medical rescue) reacted swiftly to the incident, ensuring Kieran got the care he needed. All the rhino at Somkhanda are dehorned, and I believe Kieran would have been a lot more seriously injured if that was not the case,” he said.
Dylan Panos, a Bhejane Trails guide mentor, said field rangers were aware of the risks involved in their jobs.
He said rangers were willing to work around the risks to ensure the safety and protection of the wildlife they served.
“Field staff are well trained to avoid such encounters, but every once in a while, paths do cross in unexpected ways,” said Panos.