We started running. We started running while trying to be as quiet as possible. On gravel. Toward the supposed location of a rhinoceros.
If you had been present for the morning debriefing on how to behave in the event that we were attacked by a tiger, sloth bear, or rhinoceros, you would be questioning our decision to run at a dangerous animal. I know I was.
After a leisurely canoe trip and two hours walking through the jungle, plunging through towering, eight-foot-tall elephant grass, and following meandering paths to check various watering holes, our “guarantee 100% you see rhino” was beginning to seem less and less likely. And the heat of the Nepali plains was gearing up, inching its way up toward 110. So when another tour guide alerted our guide about a nearby rhinoceros, running commenced.
Now, as awe-inspiring as it was to crouch in the underbrush watching this armored truck of an animal, one of only 503 known to be in Nepal, it was also slightly distressing. And I do mean in more ways than only the fear of being charged by such a behemoth.
Who are we to be invading this creature’s space? To be building resorts and campgrounds within their territory? To be stalking them as they lounge in a murky pool trying to beat the midday blaze? What hubris allows us to think we are powerful enough to stalk them unprotected and on foot?
Nature Reserves and National Parks are not zoos. Perhaps if the animals are not easily visible from the safety of a vehicle, we should leave them be. After all, I don’t go tracking grizzlies unarmed in the U.S. National Parks carrying only a walking stick.