This early morning the sounds in the jungle are mysterious. Everywhere we hear the crackle of the leaves.
Is it a bird flying away or is a rhino nearby?
We are in the Dalla community forest that functions as a corridor for animals who are moving between Bardia National Park and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India. This corridor is important for the Greater one-horned rhino and the Bengal tiger. WWF is supporting the village with knowledge about wildlife conservation and growing mint and chamomile. Rhinos don’t find these plants very tasty. The 5 km sandy road from our home to the Tharu village ‘Dalla’ leads you through the countryside and can be reached by jeep, motorbike or bicycle.
In this community forest are a lot of trees, fields with tall grass and small waterholes. The ideal habitat for the rhino. In May 2016 Nepal market two years since its last rhino was poached, as well as its 4th year of zero poaching of rhinos since 2011. This helped to increase the rhino population to 645, the highest recorded number in the country so far. In Bardia National Park there are about 29 and in the Dalla community forest there is always a good chance to spot them.
When we arrive with our guests at the entrance of the forest, the local guide from Dalla is already waiting for us. As always with a big smile on his face and sparkling lights in his eyes. He has lived all his live in Dalla and knows every single meter of this forest.
We walk in silence behind our guide, because every sound can scare away the animals away and we need to keep our ears open to hear the sounds of the jungle. On the track we see some old footprints of elephants and tigers. In this area they are not frequently seen, but this proves that these animals are really here. Our guide tells us to follow him. Yesterday he saw a rhino with a baby in this area. He points at the ground and shows us fresh rhino pee that seems to be very healty to drink. I hear the crackle of the leaves, my heart is beating is it a bird or is a rhino nearby?
The guide thinks the rhino moved to the other side of the channel. We roll our pants on and we wade through the channel. At the other side we see the traces of the rhino. The guide ask us to wait. After a few minutes he is back and whispers in Nepali language that the rhino with a baby is around and that we have to climb in the tree.
We are all lucky to find some trees with many branches and as fast as we can, we climb up. After 5 minutes we see the rhino coming out of the grass. But not with one, but with two babies! What an incredible moment. I love this animal. His eyesight is very bad but his hearing is well developed and his ears move around all the time. For more than 30 minutes, we are in the tree. I feel the cramps in my feet but force myself not to move. All of sudden the rhinos start to run. They have heard us. We can safely go back to the ground.
3 hours after the start of our walk we are back in Dalla village. Yes Yes, we spotted the Greater one horned rhinoceros! In a local home in Dalla we enjoy a Tharu lunch and ricebeer and talk about our great adventure!