Playful puppies and cuddly kittens give you that warm and fuzzy feeling for us animal lovers. Rescued rhinos however, give us that sinking feeling and the dawning of a very, very long road to rehabilitation, recovery and release.
Many of us have experienced a loss in some way, but there’s something about the vulnerability of rhino calf lost in a world it’s barely began to discover that breaks our hearts. Thankfully there IS hope in the name of The Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in the South African Province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
From raising awareness to financial support (thanks to your continued donations) we at Helping Rhinos are proud to work with the orphanage in a joint effort to preserve the population of the African rhino.
The last few weeks at the orphanage has seen the arrival of two newly rescued rhinos, and we wanted to share their story and progress updates with you.
It was the early afternoon on 26th November, and Karen Trendler (insert job title) received a phone call with the news that a black rhino cow had been poached, and tiny spoor (rhino faeces) was spotted by her carcass. The search was on to track down the petrified calf, which had now become another of Africa’s animal orphans.
Hours later and the bittersweet news had arrived. There was an orphan, but she had been found and rescued. You would be forgiven for thinking that once a rhino calf has been found and rescued that all is ok, but it’s now the hard work starts.
The first 24 hours included moving Nandi to a specialised rhino trailer acting as a high care unit. Confused, frightened and longing for her Mum, she flittered between accepting comfort she craved from the orphanage volunteers, and taking her grief out on them – and they had plenty of bruises to prove it!
As big and as heavy as a 3-month-old rhino calf can be, the immense stress they endure after witnessing the harrowing death of their mother is something that understandably takes its toll. Nandi’s urine samples showed she was suffering from stress, but the team were hopeful she would come through it.
The next few days were all about keeping Nandi calm. Calves can often experience a drop in adrenalin levels, secondary infections can set in and the full impact of their trauma starts to hit them. One thing was positively consistent though; Nandi loved her milk and sleep! Karen shared a lovely Afrikaans saying, ‘magies vol, oogies toe’, which translates to ‘tummy full, eyes closed’.
The next few nights were restless for Nandi was, at times, inconsolably crying for her Mum. Nandi longed for comfort but wouldn’t let anyone near her.
December 4th, just over a week after her rescue and Nandi enjoyed her first walk (for the most part)! Nandi was feeling relaxed as she chewed on plants until she got a fright and took off, a typical reaction of an alert black rhino!
Here’s a photo of Nandi happily chewing on some plants in her new neo-natal enclosure. We think Nandi looks like she’s smiling; it’s one of our favourites of her!
Another few restless nights passed and there was a storm brewing in more ways than one…
It’s late on Tuesday 8th December and Karen Trendler shares news that another rescued rhino calf is on his way…
The rescue team and calf very nearly had to wait out the torrential rain on the muddy bank of a river.
Storm, as he was aptly named after the weather in which occurred during his rescue, arrived at 4am on Wednesday 9th December. Still very dopey from the medication given to him upon his rescue, he wasn’t yet accepting milk. He’s slightly bigger than Nandi and hasn’t lost as much condition.
Storm’s story differs to that of Nandi’s, but still heart breaking. For some reason, his mother rejected him. It’s unknown if she’s unwell or injured but after several attempts to reunite them, the decision was taken to rescue him. As wonderful as Africa can be, it can also be a very dangerous and terrifying place for a 3-month-old rejected rhino calf.
It had been a few days and Storm was struggling. He was still not accepting milk, probably as he too is suffering from the stress of the past few days and separation anxiety from his Mum. The team of volunteers are certain that once the drugs ware off, they’ll be in for the same battering Nandi gave them!
As of Saturday, December 12th, Nandi and Storm are turning out to be milk monsters! This is a really positive sign that they are starting to feel more comfortable in their foreign surroundings they now call ‘home’.
Nandi who started her long road to recovery a little more than a week before Storm, is showing a marked improvement. Nandi is actively seeking out the comfort of her carers, and is taking much more interest in her surroundings.
Nandi and Storm have now started to be introduced to each other. Rhino calves need the support of another, and it makes release back to the wild when they are older much more likely to succeed if that support comes from another rhino and not just their human carer and surrogate Mum.
After the first coupld of days, Karen Trendler comented "The friendship between Nandi and Storm is now firmly cemented. (Apparently took a bit of a black rhino type negotiation which involves pushing and shoving) But have negotiated the terms and who sleeps where and on what side .... so lovely to see them together and really enjoying the company of another little rhino."
Fingers crossed that Nandi and Storm continue to be friends and a source of comfort for one another. There may just be light at the end of the tunnel…
It is without a doubt that the rescue and care of the calves at The Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage simply couldn’t happen without the perseverance of the staff. It takes an incredible person to dedicate their time and effort both mentally and physically to do what they do and we thank them on behalf of everyone at Helping Rhinos and our supporters!
You can help rhino orphans like Nandi and Storm by adopting an orphan at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphange EXCLUSIVELY through Helping Rhinos. All funds raised through our Adopt a Rhino Orphan scheme will go to support Karen and her team and provide essential equipment to give these little orphans a chance of a future.
Feature written by Claire Hiles, Operationa Manager at Helping Rhinos
All photo credits: Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage