Human-animal collision 2: Red Hartebeest vs Mountain bike cyclist in South Africa

Last night, or rather earlier this morning, I had chanced upon the news of the white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) who got entangled in a paraglider’s rig. That was a “holy cow!” moment and I stayed awake further to capture the video to insert into my LSM3261 Life Form and Function lecture on aerial locomotion.

After the lecture, civetgirl Weiting reminded me that I had highlighted a dramatic animal collision earlier, this time between a Red Hartebeest and a cyclist. A cyclist friend of mine (Chu Wa) had highlighted it on Facebook for the helmet safety message it ended with!

In the video, a Red Hartebeest galloping across a the veld in South Africa crosses a mountain bike trail, between two race cyclists. The lead cyclist (Evan van der Spuy) who had pointed to the antelope seconds earlier is sideswiped when the antelope attempts to leap over him but fails to jump high enough!

The antelope, possibly weighing in the region of 180kg runs into him at high speed. Its feet tramples his back, thankfully in mid-air and he is flung to the ground. This reminded briefly of Jonah Lomu running over a halpless Mike Catt during the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final – also in South Africa. Happily here, the Evan escaped the brunt of the force the animal is potentially capable of, even though he had no free hands to fend-off the collision and was catapulted to the ground. He credits his helmet as having saved his head that day.

When you watch the video, listen to the dialogue of the accompanying cyclist, team mate Travis Walker. My comments in brackets below.

“Watch the buck!” (Cyclist points to antelope in acknowledgement)
“Holy cow!” (The same expression escaped me when I watched this.)
“Shit!” (A rather mild expletive all things considered.)
“Are you okay dude?” (And removes the bike; this is a recommended first aid strategy.)
“Lie down, lie down, lie down, lie down, lie down.”(Yes injured people will try to get up and walk; excellent advice for someone who might have suffered a concussion.)
*Cyclist moaning* (Boy, oh boy, I do empathise!)
“I have video of it” (I gotta get me one of those bike-mounted GoPro cameras just like Kevin Lim.)

The antelope in question is the Red Hartebeest, Alcelaphus caama, earlier considered a subspecies of A. buselaphus. More importantly, hartebeest weigh in the range of up to 200kg. Imagine that sideswiping you. Yes, you’d be moaning a plenty too!

Do you now notice how quickly it disappears, melding into the background?

What prompted this collision? From the video it seems the red hartebeest was on its way in a hurry and clearly misjudged the cyclists’s speed. So thought there is mountain bike track there, the animals aren’t used to it. Why didn’t the cyclists see the antelope? Well, he would have to keep his eyes on the track and at that speed, would only be able to look up for seconds at a time. And the interval between him eyeballing the antelope and it kicking him down is only seconds.

For the record, this took place on 10 Oct 2011, during the Time Freight MTB Express Mountain race in Albert Falls Resort and Game Reserve, outside Pietermaritzburg, South Africa which I stayed at in 1993. Gandhi was thrown of the train here! Evan (now a.k.a. “BuckNorris”) was not badly injured and returned to cycling today – and nearly drove in to a buck on the way home! All the best, Evan!

File:Alcelaphus caama.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Photo by Hans Hillewaert @ Wikipedia

There are almost 100 species of antelope and most are native to Africa. Asia’s largest antelope is the Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus).

All sizes | Male Nilgai (Blue Bull) rests in the shade | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Photo by Sumeet Moghe @ Flickr

A much smaller Asian antelope (80 cm in height ) is the Chiru or Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) which was being hunted to extinction for its underwool. Measures to protect the animal have arrested the decline somewhat but the battle continues.

China created the Chang Tang Nature Reserve, the second largest reserve in the world. WCS and other conservationists helped ensure the species became protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act which made it illegal to sell shatoosh across state lines. The Wildlife Trust Of India (WTI) spearheads the “Say No To Shahtoosh” campaign and the anti-poaching patrols was depicted in Kekexili: Mountain Patrol (2004).

Links for the Red Hartebeest – Mountain Biker collision which additional information

Birdstrike! Paraglider entangles White-rumped Vulture over the Himalayas

Vladimir Tsarkov goes on his maiden flight as a paraglider and surprises a pair of vultures over the Himalayas – his helmet camera captures the incident dramatically!

Himalayan Vulture crashes into

The birds look to be White-rumped Vultures (Gyps bengalensis) from the underwing pattern:

White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)

The vultures were likely to have been soaring and struggled to manouever out of his way. The lower elevation vulture banks sharply and dives below the paraglider to escape collision.

Paragliding involves “sitting in a harness suspended below a hollow fabric wing whose shape is formed by its suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.”

Paraglidng by Greg O'Beirne

So ironically, Vladimir Tsarkov was soaring, just like the vultures.

Well, the other vulture tried to rise above the paraglider and got entangled in the rig. The aerodynamic surface compromised, he, or rather they, started falling!

Himalayan Vulture crashes into

See the video, “Paraglider brought down by bird strike over Himalayas,” BBC News Asia, 02 Nov 2011. You’ll like the narrative, presenter was good.

Gyps bengalensis was once possibly the most abundant large bird of prey in the world, but disappeared from most of South-East Asia in the early 20th century. It is now Critically Endangered due to catastrophic decline in the 1990’s primarily due poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac as they fed on carcasses of animals treated with the widespread drug.