At Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, strict conservation policies dictate a practice of non-intervention when animals are hurt or injured in their natural habitat. The policy is to allow Nature to take its course and to leave the animals and their environment undisturbed. There are only two exceptions to this strict rule: one is when an animal is injured as a direct result of human action; the other is when the animal in question is an endangered species.
In May, one of the Sabi Sabi rangers spotted what he thought, from a distance, was an aardvark near the dam in front of Earth Lodge. Closer inspection revealed that it was, in fact, a newborn rhino calf which appeared to have been abandoned by her mother. She was only a few hours old and immediately approached the Land Rover. She was clearly looking for her mother.
The safari team decided to leave the calf alone, in the hope that the mother rhino would return during the morning. Earth Lodge management kept a close watch on the calf throughout the day. Because the rhino is one of our endangered species, when the mother didn't reappear, the manager contacted the Sabi Sand Wildtuin warden, who arranged for a rehabilitation centre team and state veterinarian from the Kruger National Park to come through to Sabi Sabi in order to rescue the tiny calf.
During its time alone, in a desperate attempt to find food and comfort, the baby tried to suckle a large tree and rubbed up against its trunk as if it were her mother. Says Earth Lodge Manager: "Our rangers and trackers had some anxious moments while waiting for the rescue team. Firstly, two lionesses passed the area where the baby rhino was lying down, but luckily it had fallen asleep and escaped detection. Later, five elephant bulls passed close by, and a leopard was seen within 500m of her."
A rescue team, led by well-known game capture specialist Douw Grobler and rehabilitation staff from the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), arrived later that afternoon The by now exhausted and hungry little rhino immediately approached the team and tried to suckle one of the Sabi Sabi Land Rovers. She was eventually rewarded for her perseverance with a huge, rhino size bottle of glucose to prevent dehydration, and then sedated for her trip to her new home at the HESC. She is being hand raised and cared for by the rehabilitation team, which has reported that she is getting strong and is very well adjusted to her new home and bottle! They have promised to keep us informed of her progress.
Cheetah cubs welcomed
Guests visiting Sabi Sabi in late June were delighted to see a female cheetah moving quietly through the bushveld with three tiny cubs just a couple of weeks old. The shy babies appeared to be on their first outing, with rangers speculating that they were being moved to safety away from the many leopards in that part of the reserve. It was a rare and wonderful sight - watch the newsletter for updates on them.