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As we celebrate World Rhino Day, Andrea Weiss contemplates why wild rhinos matter.

1. They are awesome yet vulnerable

My most memorable encounter with a rhino was on the Wolhuter Wilderness Trail in the Kruger National Park. During the trail, we saw something like 26 white rhinos on foot – quite remarkable considering the pressure they are under. But the one sighting that sticks in my mind was the rhino that we came to within a few metres of. It was resting in a natural hollow and our guide beckoned us to follow him to a ridge overlooking it.

My friend and I were nervous and hung back a bit, only to hear the guide’s urgent shout: “Get down, get down”. Sensing an audience, the rhino had turned and bolted right past the place we had been standing. We were lucky enough to get out of its way but who knows what might have happened had we been caught in the its path?

From that moment on, we stuck like glue to the guide and obeyed his every word. It was a salutary lesson in bush walking, but also evidence of how easy it is for poachers to creep up on these magnificent, prehistoric creatures.

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