rhino calf rescue

August 2007

At Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, strict conservation policies dictate a policy of non-intervention when animals are hurt or injured in their natural habitat. The idea is to let Nature take its course and to leave the animals and their environment undisturbed. There are two exceptions to this rule : when an animal is injured as a direct result of intervention by humans; or when the animal in question is an endangered species.

In May 2007, one of the Sabi Sabi rangers spotted what he thought was an aardvark near the dam in front of Earth Lodge. Closer inspection revealed that it was a newborn rhino calf that appeared to have been abandoned by her mother. She was only a few hours old and immediately wanted to approach the Land Rover. She was clearly looking for her mother.

The safari team decided to leave the calf in the hope that the mother rhino would return during the morning. Earth Lodge management kept an eye on the calf throughout the day and contacted the Sabi Sand Wildtuin warden, who arranged for a rehabilitation centre team and state vet from the Kruger National Park to come through to Sabi Sabi in order to rescue her the following day.

In a desperate attempt to get food the baby tried to suckle a large tree and rubbed up against its trunk as if it were her mother. Says Earth Lodge Manager, Stephan Kritzinger : “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 her, and a leopard was seen within 500m of her.

We were delighted when the rescue team, led by game capture specialist, Douw Grobler and rehabilitation staff from Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), arrived later that afternoon. The by now very tired 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 good dose 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, who have reported that she is getting strong and is very well adjusted to her new bottle! They have promised to us keep us informed about her progress.

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