The birth of a rhino calf is extremely important in the world of rhino conservation. At Helping Rhinos, every rhino counts which is why the birth of miracle rhino poaching survivor Thandi’s fifth calf, a male named Zolani at the beginning of April 2023, is cause for joy and celebration.
Thandi the rhino will need no introduction to many. She is one of the most famous rhinos in the world having lived through a horrific poaching attack on 2nd March 2012, but miraculously she survived against all the odds.
Thandi’s powers of recovery, strength of character and amazing will to live have inspired people from all around the world to get involved in rhino conservation, whether that is by making a donation to help keep rhinos safe, or as was the case with Helping Rhinos’ very own CEO, Simon Jones, to set up a charity dedicated to protecting these iconic animals, the same year. Thandi’s legacy has a global reach and in 2022, Helping Rhinos celebrated their 10th anniversary which also marked ten years since Thandi’s poaching incident.
The news of the arrival of her fifth calf, Zolani, is the latest chapter in her inspiring story.
Zolani was born in April 2023. For all of her four previous calves, Thandi headed into thick African bush to give birth and then kept the calf hidden for another couple of weeks. This is typical rhino behaviour and is exactly what she did this time around with the birth of Zolani. While she was tucked away in the bush protecting and getting to know her newborn, everyone had to wait patiently for her to emerge and show off her young one.
Luckily the dedicated anti-poaching team on Kariega Game Reserve had been keeping a close eye on Thandi and her new baby via a thermal image drone and were ready and waiting for when she emerged from the bush.
Helping Rhinos CEO, Simon Jones was in South Africa at the end of March and saw Thandi prior to the delivery of her fifth calf. It wasn’t long after he left the reserve that Thandi headed off into the bush to give birth.
Kariega Game Reserve have chosen to name this latest addition to Thandi’s family, Zolani which means ‘freedom loving’ and ‘free-spirited’, the way rhino should be able to live and our hopes, with our partner Kariega Game Reserve, for his life. His name was also chosen in memory of much loved field guide on the reserve, Zolani, who sadly passed away in 2022.
Alongside Colin, Mthetho and Siya, Zolani is Thandi’s fourth bull calf. She has had only one cow calf, named Thembi (who also has since had a male calf). The theory is that sex is determined by population density. The denser the population the more bulls that are born to slow down breeding.
This once again highlights the importance of Helping Rhinos who, in partnership with Kariega, have created an expanded habitat that allowed us to carry out the translocation of Thandi's second calf Colin's crash in 2022, giving rhinos essential Room to Roam. It is hoped that, as a result of this expansion and translocation, the reserve should start seeing many more rhino cows born in the future which will in turn help Thandi’s family expand further to support the growth of the rhino species as a whole in the area.
Timeline: Super Mum Thandi’s Growing Brood
Thandi’s firstborn Thembi, a female calf, was born in January 2015. Meaning ‘Hope’ in isiXhosa, Thembi was the perfect name for Thandi’s first calf: a rhino who had been so brutally attacked that it was incredible to think she could not only survive but go on to be a mother and contribute to keeping this remarkable species alive.
Fast forward to January 2017 and Thandi was spotted with a new calf, a male who was named Colin in memory of Colin Rushmere, the founder of Kariega Game Reserve who had passed away just days before. Colin was relocated with a number of females to new land that has been incorporated into the Kareiga Game Reserve in 2022. It is hoped he will go on to form a successful breeding crash and father many rhinos in the future.
Next born for super Mum Thandi, was her third calf Mthetho, another male, born in April 2019. He was given the name Mthetho, which means ‘Justice’ in isiXhosa, because he was born the same week the poachers thought to be responsible for his mother Thandi’s attack were jailed for 25 years.
In January 2021, Thandi surprised everyone at Kariega by appearing with another new-born calf as no one was aware she was pregnant. Calf number four, a male, was called Siya after The Springboks Rugby Union World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi who was also born in the Eastern Cape region.
In October 2021, Thandi’s first born Thembi gave birth to a male calf, Umkhosi, making Thandi a grandmother for the first time. Umkhosi means ‘Warrior’ in the local Xhosa language – a strong and resilient name to put him in good stead for the future.
In April 2023, Thandi gave birth to her fifth calf Zolani and her daughter Thembi gave birth to her second calf just days after her mother had Zolani. We are so uplifted by the news of the birth of yet more rhinos from Thandi’s lineage.
For Zolani, just like his brothers Colin, Mthetho and Siya and sister Thembi and nephew Umkhosi and new nephew/niece, his existence is testament to Thandi’s will to survive against all odds. It is a story of strength and resilience and of the incredible work done by everyone involved with Thandi’s survival and the protection of this very precious family.
Why Thandi and her Family are so Important
Thandi’s fifth calf is a celebration for our supporters, Helping Rhinos and the global community of people who have walked alongside those involved in Thandi’s rescue, through her story of survival and ongoing hope for the rhino species as a whole.
You can adopt Thandi and her ever-expanding family which not only supports the safety and security of this very special rhino crash but it helps the on-the-ground team’s rhino protection efforts in significant ways.
Saving one rhino has left a lineage of seven more rhino so far (including Thandi's grandchildren) as Thandi continues to spread hope for all rhinos.
How you can support Thandi and her growing family
The need to protect rhinos has never been so critical – as a keystone species they play a vital role in maintaining the balance and health of their ecosystem. They are such an important part of our natural heritage and cultural identity and preserving them for future generations is a responsibility that we all share.
A champion for rhinos everywhere, Thandi’s exceptional survival over such extreme adversity gives hope to us all.