Shooting endangered and threatened African wildlife, rhino, leopard, Wild Dog, with his camera is Andrew Cairncross’ passion.
As with most wonderful folks we meet, Andrew connected with Nikela online over a year ago when he first provided an amazing rhino image for use on an ebook cover (RHINO HORN by Chris Mercer).
We invited Andrew to share his story, he graciously did. [More images below]
Living in Africa is both a blessing and a curse. While poverty and hardship is a daily reality for many, for those fortunate enough, we can venture into the African bush veld to view what is arguably the greatest continent on Earth when it comes to wildlife viewing.
I often smile when reading of international visitors getting bitten by Africa, as opposed to being bitten in Africa. The African wild is indeed a place that captures the mind and soothes the soul, a retreat from the harshness of daily life for those of us who live here, and just a mind bending destination for those who don’t.
The Rhino is indeed one of the iconic African Big 5 and a true pleasure to view. Predators fascinate me, my favourite being Leopard and Wild Dog, but right on top of my non-predatory mammal list is the Rhino. Both White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) and the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) have vastly different appeal to me. The somewhat docile White Rhino is a pleasure to get up close to and appreciate not only the immense size of the animal, but by getting close to them, one gets a sense of how nimble and quick these large animals are when they make a split second 180 degree turn. To view a Crash of 5, 6 or 7 Rhino all grazing together is something rather special. To have an inquisitive little calf, not much bigger than a Rottweiler, lift its head, and put its chin on my vehicle’s windowsill, while the mother calmly allowed it, has to rate as one of my most intense and endearing wildlife encounters ever.
Black Rhino are very different in character and behavior. Being browsers, and enjoying the security of their preferred bushy habitat, it is not uncommon to hear them before you see them, or at least that has been my experience in the reserves I have seen them. Other parks have open spaces the Black Rhino traverse between suitable browsing habitat and in these parks you can view them in the open clearings. They are notably more aggressive than the White Rhino, although slightly smaller, and are particularly aggressive when a female has her calf. My encounters with these animals have been slightly different, and I have often been the subject of their exception, followed by a rapid charge. To see an animal that size, bounding towards you at incredible speed, with serious intent, is rather frightening but equally exciting.
However, there is one thing that completely endears me to these animals, and that is the squeak of a White Rhino calf. The roar of a Lion, The trumpet of an Elephant and the cry of a Fish Eagle are three incredible sounds of Africa, but I can assure you, there is nothing more astounding than a Rhino Calf squeaking. In similar fashion to a Cheetah, being a wild cat of Africa, one expects a good growl, from them and people who hear them call for the first time always remark on the likeness to a birdcall. A Rhino calf will stay with its’ mother for a number of years and when a 2 year old calf squeaks, I can assure you that the term gentle giant will never have more significant meaning. It is by far my favourite sound in the wild, and while I have not heard it often, it is this sound that endears me to them and never ceases to amaze me. Rhino are rather territorial and making bi-monthly trips into the same reserve has allowed me the opportunity to understand a bit more about them and their family structures. They truly are icons of Africa, and a real privilege to share our planet with, and with a bit of effort, we can all ensure that this co-existence is sustainable.