In 1992, a series of bizarre deaths of rhinos occurred one after another in Pilinsburg National Park in South Africa, and nearly 100 rhinos were killed. In the following years, researchers and animal protectors carried out perseverance in analysis, investigation and evidence collection. Although the possibility of human hunting was ruled out, the real culprit has not been found. Who is the killer to the rhino? What is the truth behind the answers to these unsolved mysteries?
The bizarre “homicide”
Gus Van Dijk is a field ecologist in Pilinsburg National Park, South Africa. One day in May 1992, while working outdoors, he suddenly found a rhinoceros corpse in the grass. Pilingsberg National Park is a famous nature reserve in South Africa. Animal deaths are not trivial. Van Dijk immediately launched an investigation.
As the investigation progressed, a fact that shocked Van Dijk emerged: the death of rhinos was not an isolated incident. The park ranger subsequently discovered that several rhinos had died inexplicably, and judging from their wounds, The cause of death of rhinos is mysterious-if rhinos are suddenly attacked by poachers, they will have traces of being hunted, such as bullet holes shot by shotguns, and their horns will also be poached Saw off. The fact is that the corpses of these rhinos are unexpectedly intact, and the rhino horns are also intact. All this shows that the death of the rhinos has nothing to do with poaching, and that the killers of them were other people.
Van Dijk was eager to solve these mysteries, but he couldn’t figure it out for a while. In his opinion, humans are the greatest threat to rhinos, but the various signs on the scene rule out the possibility of human poaching.
Van Dijk thought of another possibility, that is, adult male rhinos would fight for territories, and they might kill each other. However, Van Dijk quickly denied himself, because when he looked at the rhinos’ wounds, he found that some of the dead rhinos had deep wounds on the back of their heads, and some had broken shoulder blades and broken spine. In most cases, the rhinos used each other. Most of the wounds caused by the horn attack are concentrated on the abdomen or under the head, and the location is low, and it will not cause such serious physical damage.
Although the investigative team led by Van Dijk has seized the time to investigate the cause of death of the rhino, the death of the rhino continues. Van Dijk was very anxious and at the same time confused: Judging from the results of the field survey, the attacker of the rhino must be higher than the rhino. The adult rhino is 1.5 meters tall and weighs 3 tons. What kind of attack? Who can kill a huge rhino? Van Dijk thought about it and couldn’t find the answer.
More than a year passed quietly. In April 1994, the death toll of rhinos in Pilingsburg National Park was already considerable. 21 rhinos lost their lives inexplicably, but Van Dijk’s investigation of the cause of death has not made any progress. As a staff member of the reserve, it was his glorious mission to provide the best and safest living environment for wild animals. Seeing that he was unable to prevent the death of the rhinoceros, he was somewhat frustrated and deeply anxious. When Van Dijk had no clue, the incident took a turn.
One day, Van Dijk was following the rhinoceros in the reserve to further restore the scene of the “homicide”, but accidentally found the corpses of 4 rhinos. They seemed to have just died soon. This was the first time Van Dijk found fresh rhinos. The corpse, he realized that he might be getting closer and closer to the truth, and he could finally catch the deadly culprit of the bizarre death of the rhino.
at the scene of the death of four rhinos, Van Dyk and investigators found a really clear traces of “murderer” left behind. Based on the huge footprints around the rhino’s body, the broken branches, and the drag and fight trajectory, Van Dijk pinpointed the real culprit. They were elephants, and the subsequent autopsy on the rhino confirmed this view. The shape, depth and piercing angle of the wound on the dead rhino are consistent with the ivory more than 1 meter long and the height of the elephant about 2.5 meters. Obviously, these four rhinos were caused by elephants using sharp teeth to penetrate the shoulders and necks, causing excessive blood loss and death. Van Dijk was puzzled: Why did the seemingly docile elephant attack rhinos continuously for more than a year? What kind of unresolvable grievances and grievances exist between them?
Van Dijk summoned the keeper of Pilinsburg National Park to search for the murderous elephant. In his opinion, the elephants that killed the rhinos would not go too far, and they might still stay near the “scene of the crime.” This is indeed the case. Van Dijk found three adult elephants just about 50 meters from the place where the rhino died.
In order to stop the brutal killing of rhinos in time, Van Dijk decided to shoot these allegedly violent elephants, although he couldn’t bear it. Van Dijk was relieved that after they shot three elephants, the bizarre deaths of rhinos did not happen again. It seems that rhinos can finally live in the park as safe and worry-free as before.
But the good times didn’t last long. Just in the past year, the corpses of rhinos were killed one after another in Pilingsburg National Park, and they died in the same way as before. Obviously, the perpetrators are still at large, and are now starting to kill again. In March 1996, 3 rhinos were killed; in April, the bodies of 5 rhinos were found; by May, 49 rhinos were killed. If this killing continues, not only the rhinoceros will face the danger of “destroying the door”, but the ecological balance in the park may also be destroyed.
Van Dijk fell into extreme anxiety. He needed to find the murderer in the shortest possible time to prevent the rhino from disappearing from the sanctuary. For the next two years, he would bring a high-precision binoculars and drove around the park two or three back and forth every day, looking for signs of the rhinoceros being killed, but the real murderer was still hiding in the dark, unable to find it. Van Dijk has been engaged in wildlife protection for nearly 20 years. He has never encountered such a difficult puzzle before. He would check various related images and data over and over again every day, but this murder case that had lasted for 5 years still had no clue.
The turning point came in 1998. One day, Van Dijk received a call from the park manager. The other party told him that a tourist who had heard of the death of a rhino accidentally took a picture of an elephant desperately chasing the rhino. Van Dijk was ecstatic and immediately went from the tourists. Got the photo. In the photo, an elephant is trying its best to stretch out its proboscis, frown its ears, and rush towards the rhino. It does not look like it is driving the rhino away, but is trying to catch it and place it on Deadly.
This is the first time Van Dijk saw direct evidence that an elephant killed a rhino. Although it confirmed the previous speculation about the real murderer, Van Dijk still could not solve the question mark: Why did the elephant kill the rhino? Is this killing just an individual act of a certain elephant or is it a collective murder involving the elephant population?
In order to solve the mystery, Van Dijk checked all the photos of dead rhinos and made a major discovery: There was an elephant’s footprint at each crime scene, and only the male elephant walked alone. And judging from the size of its footprints, it does not belong to an adult elephant. The most important thing is that the footprints of each elephant are not the same, which means that there is not one murderer, but many elephants, and they are male elephants that are underage. Van Dijk then targeted the bull elephant in the park, but he obviously needs some help if he wants to really solve the mystery of the bizarre death of the rhino.
Van Dijk contacted Joyce Poole, a well-known elephant researcher, and Poole suggested that Van Dijk establish an independent archive for all the elephants in Pilinsburg Park so that they can be studied. Van Dijk adopted this suggestion. He took photos of each elephant and recorded the unique physical characteristics. Then, he made an amazing discovery: all male elephants that attack rhinos are in the mating period, and their temperaments are very aggressive, even the mildest male elephants are very aggressive. This situation usually occurs when the male elephant is 20-30 years old, and most of the male elephants in Pilingsburg Park are only a teenager. In other words, the violent state of the male elephant was fully advanced 10 years.
Later, Van Dijk found more evidence of elephants attacking rhinos. Once, he saw a male elephant quietly approaching a few rhinos. At first, it was not aggressive, but placed its nose on the rhino’s shoulder. But then a jaw-dropping scene took place: the male elephant wanted to mate with one of the rhinos, and after being rejected, it stabbed the rhino to death. Van Dijk believes that the deviant sexual behavior of male elephants and the subsequent rage are related to excessive testosterone secretion, but these male elephants are only in their teens. Why does the surge in hormone secretion occur so early?
Van Dyk once again detailed inspection of the horses Springs National Park Fort elephants data. This time, he made a key discovery that he had overlooked before—the elephants currently living in Pilinsburg National Park are almost all survivors of the family’s extinction.
In 1979, the South African government established the Pilinsburg National Park, a two-hour drive from Johannesburg. Its original purpose was to restore species that were about to disappear and to promote the protection of wild animals in a positive way, but there are also some controversies about this initiative called the “Creation Plan”. Because when the elephants were relocated from Kruger National Park, they were limited by conditions, and people could not transport the adult elephants, so they captured some baby elephants that were as tall as people. During the capture process, people injected anesthetics into the older elephants, then slaughtered them, bundled them with the baby elephants and shipped them back. At that time, people just wanted to prevent the baby elephant from falling apart, no one realized that this would leave permanent trauma to the baby elephant. Because in South Africa in the 1970s, selective hunting was considered a normal animal protection behavior, which could control the size of elephant populations and help protect the ecological balance of the park. In addition, people’s psychological research on elephants was very superficial at that time, and many people did not think of the serious consequences of doing so.
These little elephants who witnessed the slaughter of their family came to the unfamiliar Pilinsburg National Park after 480 kilometers. They were not led by female elephants, and they did not have any imitation objects, which made their lives very difficult in the first days . Thirteen years have passed, and the traumatic experiences that those little elephants suffered after they gradually became adults, they tried to vent their emotions in a violent way, and the first victim was the rhino.
At this point, the bizarre deaths of rhinos in Pilinsburg National Park have finally come to light, but what can be done next to prevent elephants’ violence? Van Dijk accepted Dr. Poole’s suggestion and moved some older adult male elephants from Kruger National Park, the earliest habitat of these elephants. Soon, this therapy showed practical results. Under the demonstration effect of adult male elephants, those “violent elephants” in Pilingsburg National Park soon became more tame, and rhinos no longer became innocent victims.
More and more studies have shown that elephants actually have the same emotional sequelae as humans. They are very family-dependent animals and grew up in a matrilineal clan society with close connections. In the 1970s, poaching was rampant in some African countries. In order to obtain precious ivory, poachers rushed into the jungle and massacred the target group. A whole generation of older elephants were driven to extinction, leaving alone and helpless. The little elephant can only survive by himself. They lost their family and saw their parents and siblings suffer brutal killings by humans. These caused them great mental trauma. Not only their physical health was affected, but also emotional disorders and mental disorders occurred. Mankind launched a fierce revenge action.
In fact, in the final analysis, elephants’ abnormal violent behavior is due to human brutality disrupting their social structure and causing deep psychological trauma to them. From this perspective, humans are actually the real culprits of the fatal rhino mystery. Only by learning to be kind to nature and everything around us can we live in harmony with this world, otherwise we may suffer revenge