BLACK RHINO

In 1964 the author was assigned to assist Rupert Fothergill with the capture of black rhinos in the Sizemba area of the Binga District. Rupert Fothergill (MBE) had pioneered the original capture of black rhinos on the temporary islands of Lake Kariba during Operation Noah (1957 - 1963) as the lake basin slowly flooded.  Rupert was the first person in Rhodesia to use capture guns, darts, and drugs to capture wild game animals. In 1964 he imparted his vast knowledge to the author.

In 1965 Rupert was seriously gored by a rhino and the author was, then, the only person in the country with black rhino capture experience. He took charge of the black rhino capture operations (aged 26) and he continued in that role for the following seven years. During that time he replaced the old and primitive CO2 powered capture guns with new and more powerful powder-charged weapons of his own design; he redesigned the darts and dart needles; and he perfected the use of the new wonder drug M-99. All the capture hunts were conducted using conventional hunting methods; tracking the animals down with native trackers; and stalking them to within darting range, on foot.

In those early days capturing black rhinos with very primitive equipment was an extremely dangerous undertaking, but hunting conditions improved as the equipment was perfected. At that time, the author’s average darting range varied between 6 and 13 yards in the Zambezi valley’s dense jesse (thicket) habitats; and he undertook the final (up to 4 hours) 100 yard stalk, to get within darting range of the sleeping rhinos, alone.   Silence was of the essence and there was no place for a second game ranger to back him up with a heavy calibre rifle.

Inevitably he suffered mishaps and was knocked about on several occasions.  He once sustained severe bruising from a side-swipe by an attacking rhino; and, on another occasion, he found himself underneath an irate black rhino bull for several long moments.  He escaped death or serious injury on more occasions that he cares to remember.  Two more of his colleagues (after Rupert Fothergill) were severely gored by rhinos.

Although this book is not about hunting to kill, it is the most exciting African big game hunting adventure ever written. Furthermore, it chronicles many pioneering hunting skills never before practiced.  The stories recorded are unique, and because Africa and capture technology has changed dramatically since those colonial days, they cannot be repeated.

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