There has never been an occasion in my life, up until this morning, that I have wished death on a living organism.

I had heard the bush gossip regarding a bull white rhino, who had suffered sever injuries during a territorial battle. I had not encountered this particular bull either, until this morning, which was our first sighting of the day. We found him just south of djuma dam, moving slowly and clearly painfully, on the fringe of the woodland, followed closely behind by a lone male hyena, which I immediately noticed was the closest I have ever seen a hyena get to a rhino.
It was not difficult to instantly arrive at the conclusion that this was the guy I had been hearing about and now eight or nine days into his unfortunate situation, the smell of decay and infection, now his constant companion. We had not been with these animals long before the hyena began to closely investigate the deep gashes inflicted on this suffering beast, proceeding with cautious and exploratory bites to his inner thigh, as only hyena, jackals and vultures are the masters of knowing when death is close by and no meat eater would willingly turn down a large and hassle free meal, especially one as large as this.
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I did not know it then but this was soon to turn out to be one of my worst shock and horror bush moments. The hyena, clearly knew this rhino was doomed, succumbing to his numerous and badly infected wounds, at least four having the potential of puncturing his lungs. He had taken an intense beating and must have been knocked to the ground during the skirmish as he had one puncture wound high on his midsection, in a location impossible for another rhino to reach, unless his opponent was off his feet and on his side. The wound high up on his body was a clear indication that this was a battle of epic proportion.
The hyena became braver sensing an opportunity, began to bite at the rhino’s tail and trying to tug off pieces began to hang on for short periods which was obviously not welcomed by this fast weakening giant who made a few attempts to gore this persistent and ominous tormentor, little did he know they would be the last steps of his splendid life.
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His life’s energy nearly spent he, stumbled to his left but infection, pain and severe swelling on his front left limb couldn’t support this now off balance bulk. He desperately tried in vain to save his fall by using his head and front horn as a support for the limb, but his strength and his body could not keep up with his mind’s demands. He collapsed on his side and seemed to sense he would never leave tracks over his land ever again.
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He was now just an object of extreme fortune to the hyena, who proceeded to continue the behavior, his kind have displayed for millions of years and began filling his stomach with living chunks of rhino skin and flesh. This huge bull reduced to a weakly kicking meal, every other bite the hyena took of his rear end was accompanied by heart sickening squeals from this once proud animal, who could only thrash out with his feet lifting his massive head and desperately attempting to get back on his feet. The hyena obviously knew this was a horizon too far for this bull to reach and continued feasting on the rhino’s rear end.
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This was sever enough for us to witness but got worse when the hyena moved to the head of this now exhausted animal and began chewing off pieces of the rhino’s exposed ear. By now he was too weak to fend off this assault and could only watch, from the corner of his eye as the hyena made breakfast out of his ear.
It was at this stage that I wished death, would soon come for this rhino, the fact that the light was still on in desperate wide eyes, was a difficult to deal with fact.
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Thankfully the hyena had either had its full or thought he had best leave for he surely knew that a bounty this large would not go unnoticed for long, and left the stricken rhino, to the ways of the wild. Slowly and silently his massive ribcage expanded a slight bit and deflated for the last time as his eyes closed, his mouth drooping open allowing his last ounce of life to escape him, and his soul to escape to the great spirit in the sky, leaving us alone with his corpse feeling shallow and empty at witnessing the end of this magnificent animal’s life. I selfishly stayed with him as I did not want to leave him to die alone, what affect that would have had on the rhino, if any I cannot say, only that these sort of situations has, does and will hopefully continue to be played out in the future regardless of our presence at the time of their happening. A sad but fascinating morning and an encounter I wouldn’t want to repeat anytime soon.
The lesson is that we are merely witnesses in this dance of natural life, how ever painful the acts are we witness, we must remember that we do not control nature; we cannot rule the forces which created ourselves, for we are too far removed, and have mostly lost our understanding of the intricacies of this supportive web.
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