This past week South Africa’s Kapama celebrated the birth of a new rhino calf. Every new rhino born into the world is an incredible thing. However, this story did not have such a glamorous beginning.
Over five years ago, on 19 January 2016, the mother of the rhino calf endured an attack from poachers and almost lost her life. Kapama’s safari Manager Liezel recalls that devastating morning like it was yesterday.
“The day started like any other, with guests departing on their morning game drives to enjoy the beauty and splendor of an African safari and sunrise. Not long into the morning, a call came through on the radio informing me, as well as security a rhino had been poached. When a call like that comes through on the radio, chills run down your spine followed by sadness and then pure anger!”
Immediately we rushed through to the scene to identify which rhino had died. On further inspection, we realized that the female that had viciously been hacked and slaughtered for her horns was one of the females who had a calf. The next thing that raced through my mind was – where is her calf? We radioed through to all guides and security teams to be on full alert and begin looking for her calf.
That’s when the second call came through. A ranger reported the calf had been found, but both its horns had been hacked off.
The calf, about 2-3 years old, had been found a kilometer or two away from the scene but was miraculously still alive. Straight away we called our well known and renowned vet, Dr. Peter Rogers. The question on everyone’s minds was: Are we able to save the calf?
Dr. Rogers came as quickly as he could with his assistant Janelle Goodrich. They assessed the situation and that is when Dr. Rogers looked at me and said: “They all just need a fighting chance!”. It was decided we were going to give this little calf the fighting chance she deserved.
She was darted and taken to HESC (Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre ) under the care of Lindri the curator. Here Dr Rogers was able to keep a close eye on her and treat her every few weeks. It was a long, grueling process, as the horns were cut out so deeply that the sinuses of this poor animal could be seen.
A special cap was made for her from a very strong plastic used in the manufacturing of prosthetics. The cover was specially molded to fit perfectly over the exposed sinuses and acted like a scab for the wounds to heal underneath. It also prevented maggots from entering the wound and causing more damage.
“After many months of care, her wounds healed and her horns began to grow. She was released back onto Kapama Game Reserve in August 2019, having survived this treacherous ordeal. ”
Not even three years since her release back onto Kapama, we welcomed her own little calf into the Kapama rhino family. You can see from from the image below how her horns were able to grow back slightly. What a precious moment!
Conservation and preservation of nature as well as endangered species forms such a crucial part of Kapama’s vision and mission. Private Game Reserve’s like Kapama play such an important role in protecting endangered species like rhino to help their numbers grow.
For Kapama, and all involved in her story which started six years ago, seeing this particular rhino with her new young calf means so much to everyone. We are so pleased and proud that we were able to give her a fighting chance – to not only survive but thrive and have a baby of her own! Welcome to the world little one!