Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Friday, January 15, 2010

Geographycal Magazine Competition

Everybody has a reason to join this expedition. For Eric Baldauf, it was a surprise. He won a competition of the Geographical Magazine, which is the official magazine of the Royal Geographic Society of London. Eric wrote an interesting article for the magazine and was offered a place in this expedition. He has travelled worldwide and you can check more about him, his pictures and stories at http://www.baldaufphoto.com/. Congratulations to Eric and we are very happy to share with you his view on rhino sex!

Have you ever seen two rhinos having sex? It's painfully slow and soporific. It can take hours. And hours. And hours. It's the opposite of the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am procreation style of monkeys. I suppose that's what got me into such a predicament. I must have been hypnotised by the methodical methods involved.The seduction began the previous evening around a waterhole in Chitwan National Park in the southern lowlands of Nepal. An armed park warden had escorted me through a vast deciduous forest to the bamboo viewing platform where I was to spend the night. His last words of warning were: 'No matter what, don't come down from the platform until I return tomorrow.'I spotted the huge, single-horned male approaching before dusk, trotting towards the waterhole with surprising grace. But stranger than that, stranger than anything I've ever seen, I swear he had a smile on his face. He might as well have had a tuxedo on--he seemed so self-assured, so suave, so debonair. He sauntered up to his prey, a lone female half his size. He gave a gentle grunt, a nudge and then moved away. This was to be a proper courtship. He understood the rules of engagement and his objective was clear.The female didn't bat a hairy eyelid. She showed him a massive cold shoulder. Her body language said: 'Where are the chocolates and flowers, big boy?' He tried to circle around behind her but she wasn't having any of it. And so began a seductive dance that lasted through the night, two huge silhouettes lumbering in the moonlight. The noises from the male were as varied as those of a poet: cajoling, teasing, demanding ... whispered, mooed and barked.By first light, he had worn down the female's resistance and managed to mount her. But she still wasn't having it and told him so with a series of thunderous roars. And so began a comical forward shuffling--she on four legs, he on two. They gradually moved away from the waterhole and my perch. I had to follow. I couldn't help myself.I stayed downwind and kept what I thought was a cautious distance. Eventually, the female halted her heavy progress, worn down by the bull's weight and persistence. And so the mating began.You'll never hear the term 'quickie' in reference to rhino intercourse. The male's huge blubbery hips thrust ever so slightly in and out, in and out. I tiptoed close, drawn like a voyeur on an invisible string. The beauty of these two clumsy beasts in coitus was breathtaking.Then, suddenly, the wind changed direction. The bull was instantly down on all fours, bellowing his outrage, charging at me with remarkable speed. I ran for my life, diving behind a tree trunk--which the poorly sighted rhino crashed into with the force of a juggernaut. I practically passed out with fright. He gave me a long, hard look. 'Respect!' he snorted, then turned and galloped valiantly back to his waiting paramour.

Eric won a five-week expedition with Global Vision International. This expedition will take volunteers to Kenya to combine marine, primate and forest research, and become involved in local community projects. Living and working in the Shimoni Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Eric will conduct humpback whale and dolphin research, snorkel to observe turtles, and help in wildlife conservation.