Trainee Guide Discharged in Good Spirits After Surviving Black Rhino Attack
The Bhejane Nature Training students and armed guide on a daily monitoring exercise at the reserve. Photo by Chantelle Melzer

The student guide who was attacked by a black rhino yesterday – Wednesday 19 May 2021 – in a game reserve in northern Zululand, South Africa, has been discharged and is apparently bruised (the rhino knocked him into a tree, hitting his head, and her calf ran over his legs) but is in fine spirits and looking forward to his return to the bush once he has recovered!

Although IPSS Medical Rescue reported that “a Scottish student (had) been critically injured”, and that he was “trampled and gored by the rhino”; Wild Trust alleges that the reports were slightly exaggerated… although two guides did still endure a pretty harrowing encounter with the female Black Rhino and her calf in KwaZulu-Natal. Fortunately both men have survived in tact to tell the exciting tale.

According to WILDTRUST CEO Dr Roelie Kloppers the injuries may have been a lot more serious if the rhino had not been dehorned.

Kieran wrote on IPSS’ facebook page today:

“I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who was involved, it’s heartwarming to see people who are willing to help the way you guys did. All is well thank lord, no serious injuries… As an extra note, I have absolutely no negative comments about the incident. I love what I’m doing, still will Continue as soon as I’m able. I still absolutely love black rhinos and look forward to seeing them again. Just maybe not as close 😄”

In a press release issued by Wild Trust on Thursday afternoon, the full details of the encounter between the rhino and Kieran, as well as the other Bhejane Field guide, were revealed. According to the statement, the guides were out on a monitoring exercise at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve.

The press release reads: “Yesterday a group of Bhejane students and guides, joined by their (armed) instructor, Stephen Ingram and Senior Somkhanda rangers took part in a daily monitoring exercise on the reserve.

“A rhino-monitoring exercise requires a team to locate the rhino and get a visual, which will enable the guides to identify the animal and assess its body (for snares or injuries).

Black Rhino with her calf at the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve. Photo: Dave Gilroy.
Black Rhino with her calf at the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve. Photo: Dave Gilroy

“Using telemetry monitoring, the group located the rhino and got a visual at a good distance when they noticed that the rhino was aware of them.

“They pulled back and proceeded to look for cover, anticipating the rhino may come closer to investigate. The rhino continued to approach them, and the group succeeded in deterring the rhino by shouting it down.

“The rhino veered off into the bush and the monitoring team proceeded to move out of the area.

“Unfortunately, the curious rhino (with one of its calves) came back to have another look and came from a different direction.

Kieran got knocked into a tree, hitting his head

“The group all looked for cover and a tree to climb, but Kieran Munns (22) and Kyle McGarvie (32) did not manage to get out of the way in time. Both managed to stay calm and Kyle managed to push himself off the mother, getting knocked by the passing calf, while Kieran got knocked out of the way into a tree by the mother, hitting his head, with the calf following behind running over his legs.

“Once the rhino and its calves had moved off, the team continued to extract from the area and assessed injuries.

“Kieran was awake and conscious, however with an incident of this nature as well as a knock to his head – one does have to be sure there are no internal injuries, and he was taken to the nearest medical centre to be evaluated properly. Kyle did not require any medical attention.

Bruised Kieran has no serious injuries

“A bruised Kieran has been discharged today (20 May) and has no serious injuries or broken bones,” said the statement.

In fact, despite his pretty frightening experience, a surprisingly chirpy Kieran said today:

“This is not going to discourage me or stop me from doing guiding. I love what I am doing, and this is just an unfortunate accident that sometimes comes with the job! I am obviously not in a hurry for it to happen again, but I know it comes with the territory. Everyone in the group, including myself learnt from it and I am really looking forward to going back to the reserve and getting back to work.”

Dr Roelie Kloppers CEO of WILDTRUST says:

“Everyone operating on Somkhanda adhere to the highest safety standards. However, this is a truly wild environment and the chances of dangerous encounters with wildlife are real. Luckily, reserve management and IPSS reacted swiftly to the incident ensuring Kieran got the care he needed. All the rhino at Somkhanda are dehorned and I believe Kieran would have been a lot more seriously injured if that was not the case.”

Black rhino attack Zululand south africa
Black Rhino calf on the reserve. Black Rhinos can be distinctly recognised by their hooked lip. Photo: Hans Veth

“Field rangers are aware of the risks their jobs entail and willing to work around those risks to ensure the safety of the wildlife they serve to protect,” said Dylan Panos, Bhejane Trails Guide Mentor. “Field staff are well trained to avoid such encounters, but every once in a while, paths do cross in unexpected ways.”