Updated: Apr 27, 2022
The story of Seha the surviving rhino bull.
On the 24th of January 2022 I was invited by Dr Johan Marais founder of Saving the Survivors (STS) to witness and capture the moments of the relocation of Seha. the rhino bull who was so brutally attacked and hacked by poachers on the 24th of September back in 2016 on a private game reserve in the North West province of South Africa.
The story of Seha is all about surviving through hope, dedication, second chances, the determination for life, care and love by a group of highly dedicated people.
Seha (short for Sehawukele meaning ‘have mercy on us’ in Zulu) was the only survivor of five rhinos that were poached at the same location. Both his horns were hacked off leaving a gaping wound of 49 cm x 26 cm and extending into the nasal cavities.
After 5 years, 9 months and numerous procedures later it was time for him to go back to the wild where he can breed and pass his genetics on to a next generation.
A picture is worth more than a 1000 words
By being a photographer it is part and parcel to take images that portrait the beauty of our wildlife or whatever the subject is that we want to capture, those magical moments, that special behaviour or maybe a scenic sunrise or sunset, the beauty in creation as it's intended to be.
Then I met Seha and all of the above did not make sense and in a split moment so many thoughts and emotions came to me.
How do I capture beauty in this?
How do I capture a magical moment in this?
This is the opposite of the beauty in creation as it was intended.
I just stood there for a few minutes and took the moment in, trying to make sense of it all.
At first I could not get myself to lift the camera to capture anything. There were a buzz of reporters, followers of STS and other photographers talking and taking pictures when Dr Johan called all of them together to brief on the proceedings.
While this happened everything did become quiet and I was standing on the outskirts of all the happenings near the holding pen by myself.
Suddenly Seha started to make his way towards me and then it dawned on me,
there is beauty to capture here: - the beauty that he is still alive - the beauty in the willingness for this creature to live - the beauty of what love and dedication can do - the beauty of care from so many strangers - the beauty of humans trying to fix what others have done wrong to him - the beauty was in his eye, soft and gentle as if he understood that this was his day, back to freedom.
I went down on the ground 3 meters away right in front of him and the magical moment to capture became crystal clear - being in the presence of such a sentient being who experienced probably the worst trauma casted upon him by humans, left to die like a piece of garbage, he is alive and no matter the past he survived.
The magical moment to hear him breathing meters away from me, to see him staring at me with the softness in his eye, made me realise that magical moments are perceptions we sculpt for ourselves from perfect moments influenced by the cosmetics of a perfect world. Magical moments to capture are everywhere and the beauty in it is not always picture perfect.
The essence of the magical moment is to capture that single image that evoke emotion, tell a story, draw the viewer in and convey a message that can not be described by a thousand words.
The rhino war
It is no secret that the war against rhinos is totally out of hand and it is a battle driven by the illegal trade in rhino horns that are used in traditional Asian medicine, mostly in Vietnam and China. There are no scientific evidence that any part or element in the horn is beneficial as a remedy. More recently, it became a rather big status symbol for the wealthy, mostly in Vietnam, to purchase rhino horn in the form of trinkets to indicate someone's wealth and success. It is also said to be an aphrodisiac.
Poaching is ongoing and becoming more callous with horns hacked off animals still alive and left behind to die.
Saving the Survivors
Saving the Survivors is a cause everyone should know about and help them in the fight to save our Rhinos.
Visit their website here: https://www.savingthesurvivors.org/
Be on the lookout for the Rhino series of prints that will be uploaded on the 1st of May 2022 we pledge to donate 20% of all profits on the range to STS.