A South African woman was attacked and severely injured yesterday by a rhino while on safari in South Africa. This photo of her was taken just before the incident. Note they are standing out of their vehicle and ridiculously close to one of the most dangerous animals on earth.
A common thread in many of the safari "accidents" that make the news, is the general lack of common sense shown by the injured party, or in this case, reportedly by the owner of the reserve himself. According to the Telegraph -- "Game park owner Alex Richter had reportedly told a group of visitors it was safe to get out of the safari vehicle to take photos, and he even used food to coax the rhinos closer." According to the Beeld, an Afrikaans newspaper, he encouraged the young woman to get closer for a better photo - "Sy moet 'n bietjie nader aan die renosterbul staan vir 'n mooier foto". Thankfully the rest of the family opted to stay in the vehicle.
While small private reserves have been instrumental in saving the African rhino in South Africa (yes, their numbers were even more dire in 1980's due to poaching), they should at least vet the person for some brain activity before allowing them to own these wild and potentially dangerous animals. I'd already noticed that on the web site of this particular reserve, the photo alongside their "game drive activity" listing, in fact shows many people looking at wildlife while out of their vehicles (check it out).
Safaris are exciting because there is an element of unpredictability to the animals you're viewing. Talk to a safari guide or ranger long enough, and you'll hear plenty of stories about close shaves with hippos overturning canoes, elephants charging open vehicles, and lion stalking guests enjoying a sundowner at a scenic spot. But generally, if you follow basic safety rules you are safe. Accidents tend to happen when someone is not following the rules, risking it all to get a closer shot of an animal, or imagining themselves as the next David Attenborough.
One of the best ways to ensure a safe safari, is to get a good guide, and that means going with a reputable safari company. And take it from me, if you are in a wildlife area, NEVER get out of your vehicle unless you are certain your guide is competent and s/he says it's ok. Hint - a guide is not competent if s/he tells you to "get out of the vehicle and get closer" to any wild animal.
Image Courtesy © Beeld/Media-24