Rhino vs Elephants in Namibia - (belated) Observation of the Week, 6/13/2019

Our Observation of the Week is this confrontation between a Black Rhinoceros and a group of African Elephants, seen in Namibia by @jerrythornton!

Jerry Thornton, who grew up next to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge but now resides in southern California, describes himself as “an amateur naturalist with a lifelong love of both nature and photography.” His wife, who is a freelance wildlife writer, will often research a topic and Jerry comes along to photograph her trip. They’ve been to Africa and South America, and also go scuba diving, “which we like to view as underwater safaris,” he says.

The dramatic series of photos you’ll see in this post were taken by Jerry during a tour of Nambia he and his wife went on back in 2014. They had stopped at the Moringa waterhole in Etosha National Park to and at first saw pretty standard waterhole behavior. However, after about half an hour a Black Rhinoceros approached. I’ll let Jerry take it from here.

The elephants began to get agitated as soon as the rhino arrived, even before it stepped into the water, with the elephants rapidly backing out of the water, ears fully extended, and bellowing much more than they had been just five minutes before. And they became even more agitated as soon as the rhino stepped into the water, forming the wall of elephants seen in the first of the photos.

As the rhino stayed longer and longer other elephant family groups would approach and then back off after seeing the rhino, sometimes their young males trying their luck at intimidating the rhino through bellows, ear waving, and as in the photo, even trying to blow water at them. Eventually one of the young males got too close and the rhino decided it had taken enough harassment, chased the offending elephant off in a cloud of dust, and then returned to the waterhole.


Unfortunately we could only watch this for about another hour, but the rhino was still soaking in the waterhole when we left and we had to assume it left on its own terms.

While it’s difficult to know exactly what motivated these behaviors, Jerry tells me he’s learned “elephants hate and fear rhinos, since they are one of the very few animals that can by themselves cripple or kill an adult elephant rather easily, and having a rhino so close to their young brought out their worst/most interesting behavior.”

Jerry (above) discovered iNaturalist recently, when trying to identify butterflies and flowers brought around by southern California’s rainy winter. “As I realized its potential for more accurately identifying all types of plants and animals,” he explains, “I began to post my past observations, with the goal of learning, and providing observations and photos for others.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Here’s an annotated video showing a Rhino and an Elephant with a bit of a misunderstanding.

- The New York Times has a nice article and video about an elephant’s amazing nose.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, June 14, 2019 06:01



Excellent photos and very interesting behavior. Thanks Jerry!

Posted by susanhewitt over 1 year ago (Flag)

Great story!

Posted by myelaphus over 1 year ago (Flag)

That line of elephants doesn't look like anything you would want to cross! Great pics!!!!

Posted by texgardengal over 1 year ago (Flag)

great story

Posted by kastani over 1 year ago (Flag)

Love the photos! I liked this well written article as well. So fun to see others beautiful and exciting shots of nature.

Posted by walkingstick2 over 1 year ago (Flag)


Posted by jmaughn over 1 year ago (Flag)

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