Black rhinos are notoriously ill-tempered and will quickly go on the offensive if threatened. A team of conservationists experienced that famous hostile attitude while working on collaring rhinos in South Africa in September last year. After successfully fitting a tracking device to the leg of a sedated black rhino, the team backed away as the slumbering beast began to awaken. A bit of belligerence was to be expected – a groggy rhino is understandably grumpier than a fully conscious one – but this particular rhino made an unexpected turn and charged directly at the team, forcing them to scramble into a nearby tree to escape the one-ton animal.


The hair-raising footage was captured by Tom Frew, marketing manager at Ranger Buck Safaris, who was one of the team members present during the rhino collaring operation. "'It all just happened so fast that it was already over before we could even start to comprehend what had just happened and how lucky we were that things ended the way that they did," Frew told The Daily Mail. Although black rhinos are the smaller of the two African species, they are known to be more aggressive. "'When black rhinos wake up after these procedures, they almost always choose fight instead of flight and often put on an incredible show, rushing around and charging at anything they can," Frew explained.

When the rhino began its disgruntled rampage Frew had not yet planned his retreat and was immediately concerned when he took his first proper look at the tree he'd chosen for his escape route. "It had a trunk not much thicker than my thigh and two lousy, low hanging branches that were just high enough to keep us out of reach from the rhino," he recalls.

Rhinos have poor eyesight and rely instead on their acute sense of smell and hearing when fending off any threats. It's likely that the befuddled rhino picked up Frew and the team's scent and charged in their direction. Thankfully, the enraged animal quickly lost interest and moved off. The team remained in the treetops for three minutes or so to ensure that the rhino had moved off before braving a descend.

Many African reserves have taken to dehorning their rhinos as a measure to deter poachers. Even with two flatten stubs where its horns should be, the rhino could have inflicted significant damage if the team hadn't found their way into the branches.