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Game ranger on the mend after black rhino encounter

The black rhino mother and calf who were involved in the incident with field guide students at Somkhanda Game Reserve on Wednesday.
The black rhino mother and calf who were involved in the incident with field guide students at Somkhanda Game Reserve on Wednesday.
Image: Dave Gilroy

The Scottish game ranging student rushed to hospital after an encounter with a rhino on Wednesday is on his way to a full recovery.

The Somkhanda Community Game Reserve has said that the student had been discharged and was eager to get back into the field.

According to the Zululand reserve, the incident occurred between a black rhino who had a calf with her and two field guides who are part of the Bhejane Nature Training course.

After the incident, IPSS Medical Rescue reported that the student had been trampled and gored by the rhino and was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

But Somkhanda stressed that reports of his condition were exaggerated. 

Speaking on Wednesday's incident, the reserve said: “A group of Bhejane students and guides, joined by their armed instructor Stephen Ingram and senior Somkhanda rangers, took part in a daily monitoring exercise on the reserve.”

The reserve said the exercise required a team to locate a rhino and get a visual to enable the guides to identify the animal and assess its body for snares or injuries.

“Using telemetry monitoring, the group located the rhino and got a visual at a good distance when they noticed that the rhino was aware of them. They pulled back and proceeded to look for cover, anticipating the rhino might come closer to investigate,” the reserve said.

“The rhino continued to approach them, and the group succeeded in deterring the rhino by shouting it down. The rhino veered off into the bush and the monitoring team proceeded to move out of the area.

“Unfortunately, the curious rhino with one of its calves came back to have another look and came from a different direction. The group all looked for cover and a tree to climb, but Kieran Munns, 22, and Kyle McGarvie, 32, did not manage to get out of the way in time.

“Both managed to stay calm and Kyle managed to push himself off the mother, getting knocked by the passing calf, while Kieran got knocked out of the way into a tree by the mother, hitting his head, with the calf following behind running over his legs. Once the rhino and its calves had moved off, the team continued to extract from the area and assessed injuries.

“Kieran was awake and conscious. However, with an incident of this nature, as well as a knock to his head, one does have to be sure there are no internal injuries, and he was taken to the nearest medical centre to be evaluated properly.

“Kyle did not require any medical attention.”

Somkhanda said a bruised Munns has been discharged on Thursday and had no serious injuries or broken bones.

Munns said the incident would not discourage him or prevent him from doing guiding.

“I love what I am doing, and this is just an unfortunate accident that sometimes comes with the job. I am obviously not in a hurry for it to happen again, but I know it comes with the territory. Everyone in the group, including myself, learnt from it and I am really looking forward to going back to the reserve and getting back to work.”

Dr Roelie Kloppers, CEO of the Wildlands Conservation Trust (Wildtrust), a South African non-profit and public welfare organisation for the conservation of endangered and critically endangered species, said: “Everyone operating on Somkhanda adheres to the highest safety standards. However, this is a truly wild environment and the chances of dangerous encounters with wildlife are real.

“Luckily, reserve management and IPSS reacted swiftly to the incident ensuring Kieran got the care he needed. All the rhino at Somkhanda are dehorned and I believe Kieran would have been a lot more seriously injured if that was not the case.”

Dylan Panos, a Bhejane Trails Guide mentor, added: “Field rangers are aware of the risks their jobs entail and willing to work around those to ensure the safety of the wildlife they serve to protect.

“Field staff are well trained to avoid such encounters, but every once in a while, paths do cross in unexpected ways.”