By Aimee Braniff Cree
RARE images show a pair of two-and-half tonne wild male white rhinos just three-feet from a scared – but delighted photographer.
One image shows a six-foot tall at the shoulder rhino so close you can almost feel its horn poking through the lens at you.
Another close up of the males show them both invading the space of the photographer as they try to get in front of one another for a close up.
A powerful image shows the rhinos striding next to one another as they trek through the reserve.
The photographs were captured at Founders Lodge private game reserve, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa by professional photographer and photo tour leader Grant Atkinson (54) from Cape Town.
Only around 18,000 white rhinos live in protected areas and private game reserves.
“These images show the two young male rhino off in a more dynamic way, mainly due to the camera being very close to the animals as well as being slightly below the rhino eye level,” said Grant.
“It was totally exhilarating to be so close to such large animals. I had to remind myself to stay calm, limit my movement as much as possible, whilst still concentrating on trying to frame the picture properly. At some point they came so close that I could no longer fit the whole animal in the frame.
Grant explained how he was able to take these incredible shots.
“We came across the rhino whilst taking a game drive during time spent at a private game reserve in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa.” said Grant
“ We positioned the vehicle ahead of the rhino and below them in preparation.
“To my delight the two rhino kept coming on their track, slowly walking right up to the vehicle. I was able to hold my camera away from my face to get a very low angle.
“I made sure my camera was set to a silent shooting mode and kept on shooting.
“Some people remarked on how large and powerful the rhino looked, so that made me happy. Some thought it the best picture I had ever taken. Some also thought I was taking the pictures from a photographic hide to get the low angle.
“In South Africa rhinos are conserved in private game reserves like Founders as well as in state-owned reserves and parks.
“At this point in time some of the private conservation organizations are doing a better job at protecting their rhino in private reserves than is happening in the state or government-owned protected areas.
“Rhino poaching is relentless, and the demand doesn’t go away, so to contain it or limit the damage to rhino numbers takes a huge amount of money and ongoing commitment to the task if you hope to avoid them going extinct.”