I used to know! When we were living in Letaba I had the section rangers number saved on my phone in case I had to report an emergency. And our neighbour there knew pretty much everyone in the North, so I could always ask her whom to contact. But now we live in the South of the park, I found myself in a situation where I wanted to report an injured rhino, and I had no idea who to call!!!
Last week I was out exploring our new area with a former KLM colleague and dear friend of mine. He was visiting us during his layover in Johannesburg. Richard and I have known each other for many years. We became friends during a rotation in cold, wintery Europe over lots of cups of hot chocolate. And over the years, we have explored the far corners of the earth together.
It is always so great to see Richard and catch up. He is such a darling and brings a bit of home to me. Be it in the form of some mature Dutch cheese or typical Dutch treats, a few presents from my mom or just by telling me about the latest news and gossip from Holland and my old airline KLM.
He loves Kruger and it’s animals about as much as I do. So the morning of his departure, we went for a last short game drive to a waterhole we discovered the day before. We saw herd after herd of elephants coming to drink there after the heat of the day. We even saw two rhinos! And we wanted to go and see if the waterhole was just as busy with animals in the morning.
We never quite got there though. On our way there I spotted two rhinos. I slammed on brakes because I immediately noticed there was something not right with one of them. I told Richard even before the car came to a complete stop: “We have to call someone, this rhino is injured!”
We had a look through my binoculars. The poor rhino had a deep, open wound high up on his side: So bad that I could actually see his ribs. The wound was oozing fluid. I can only imagine this wound was badly infected. Poor rhino, he must have been in so much pain!
My heart was racing. We needed to get this rhino some help! I was trying to think: who do I call??? With shaking hands, I reached for my phone. I looked at Richard. “I don’t have anyone’s contact details!” Not the Stolznek section ranger’s number or the one for Malelane’s section. I tried to phone Steven, but he was on trail and out of cell phone signal. So now what??
Then Richard had a brilliant idea. His entry permit had an emergency number on it! I quickly drove back to where we had cell phone signal and dialled the number that was printed on the permit. My call was answered promptly and after I explained that I live in the park, the lady there gave me Malelane sections phone number.
Thank goodness the section ranger answered the phone and I was able to tell him about the injured rhino and give him a location and the direction the rhino was heading. Apparently, they had been looking for this rhino for a few weeks!
Steven spoke to the section ranger the following day. He suspected that an elephant caused the injury to the rhino’s back! Thanks to our report and accurate location, the field rangers managed to find the injured rhino. Unfortunately, his injuries were so severe that they had to end his suffering. I was sort of expecting that. As sad as it is, at least the rhino was spared a very slow and painful death.
I felt so silly not knowing what number to dial when I saw this rhino. I have since saved all the important numbers on my phone. Let me share the emergency numbers with you that I got from the SANParks website:
Kruger National Park Emergency Hotline: 013 7354325 or 013 7350197 or 076 8019679
Counter poaching hotline: 0800 205005
Crime line: SMS 32211 or call 08600 10111
If you ever have to report an emergency please try and get a location as exact as possible. These days most new cars have a built-in GPS system. GPS coordinates are a great way to give a location. Otherwise, a road number and the distance to the next turn off with the corresponding road number is also great.
I hope this blog will maybe help someone save an animal in the future. Time for me now to have a late breakfast. A slice of toast with some delicious ‘oude kaas’… Thanks Rich!