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.

Countering the proposal to legalise commercial whale hunting

Avaaz appealed for support to counter a proposal to legalise commercial whale hunting, which was banned 24 years ago.

“A group of influential countries are negotiating the proposal right now in Florida. Once they make the proposal public — submitting it for adoption by the International Whaling Commission in June — it will be too late to influence its contents.

An outcry now–in the days and hours before the proposal’s release–could stiffen the spines of negotiators who want to protect whales by keeping whaling illegal. Avaaz has launched a last-moment petition which will be hand-delivered to the negotiators each time it reaches 100,000 signatures.

To parties of the International Whaling Commission:
As citizens from around the world we call on you to retain the International ban on commercial whaling as the core policy of the International Whaling Commission in its pursuit of conservation for whales.

The proposal was happily dropped and Ricken Patel of sends an update:

Dear friends,

We did it! The proposal to legalise whale killing went down in flames in Morocco — and our campaign helped to tip the balance.

In a few short weeks, we built the biggest whale-saving petition in history, signed by an extraordinary 1.2 million of us worldwide, and delivered it directly to key delegates at the International Whaling Commission meeting. In the end, the 24 year old whaling ban was upheld.

The pro-whaling lobby tried to use political favours to win a so called ‘compromise’ that amounts to a quota for hunting whales, but as tension grew in the closed-door talks, our massive petition became a top story on the BBC’s world news, and we worked with friendly negotiators and other allies to put pressure where it was most needed and draw greater global attention.

The Australian environment minister Peter Garrett received our petition for like-minded governments in front of the world’s media and said “Thank you very much Avaaz. It is a great pleasure to be here and accept this petition … I believe the people of the world’s voices need to be heard. I certainly hear them today.”

The US delegation greeted us saying — “Avaaz! We saw your billboard at the airport!” and delegates were overheard excitedly discussing our giant real-time petition counter outside the meeting as it blew far past the million mark.

After the meeting, one European negotiator told us: “We’ve managed to keep the ban in place…I’ve been checking the petition online. I was very impressed by how fast the numbers are rising and seeing people signing from across the world.”

This is an important victory for whales — and for global people power — together we demonstrated that international decisions can be shifted by a little bit of well-placed effort from a lot of people everywhere.

Over its short lifespan, our movement has exploded through a simple democratic idea: that people power can stand up and win against powerful special interests. Whether it be protecting whales, countering corruption, supporting authentic democracy movements or fighting for a global climate deal, we are coming together to bridge the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.

Now, if enough of us chip in just a small amount for Avaaz’s member-funded campaigning, we’ll have the strength to win even more victories. Click here now to donate —

With hope,

Ricken, Alice, Paul, Mia, Ben, Luis, David, Graziela, Milena and the whole Avaaz team

“In the Valley of the Wolves”

Having heard so much about Yellowstone’s wolves, it was nice to chance upon this Bob Landis documentary on the National Geographic channel. The parallels in carnivore behaviour with the Jouberts’ “Lions and Hyaenas” made it additionally engaging.

This clip below from PBS is on YouTube – “wildlife cinematographer Bob Landis discusses the making of the film, including the ideal circumstances for filming a predation scene; the importance of spending a vast amount of time in the field; the uniqueness of Yellowstone’s Druid wolf pack, and more.”

The webpage overview is at and it has lots of resources and looks suitable for use in one of my tutorials. Well, next year that is.