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An orphaned rhino calf was rescued in the southern part of the Kruger National Park on Sunday, July 5. The calf had faced poachers, angry elephants and even lions before finally being saved.
The male calf, who is estimated to be between six and eight months old, was spotted by a member of the Jock Safari Lodge’s Environmental Monitoring Unit (JEMU).
Clearly in distress, he was found wandering near a main tourist road. As rhino mothers very rarely leave their calves it was assumed that the mother was likely already dead. The KNP’s regional ranger was alerted and instantly assembled a reaction team.
Not wanting to lose the calf in the bush, the JEMU member who had originally spotted him began to track him. The calf came into contact with a herd of about 15 elephants who were aggressive and charged towards it but the JEMU member and a KNP official distracted the herd by shouting and clapping hands.
The young rhino was then found next to the carcass of his mother, who had been killed by poachers and her horns removed. Several lions were spotted near the carcass, advancing to the calf. The team retreated to a large termite mound where they communicated GPS co-ordinates to the reaction team and watched the calf until the helicopter arrived.
The exhausted baby gave one last chase with the arrival of the helicopter but was successfully tranquilised. Vital first-aid was performed on the calf and a drip was inserted to treat his dehydration. He was then safely transferred to the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in the greater Barberton Nature Reserve, where the team were on standby.
The rhino was taken into the ICU for monitoring and to receive vital fluids. He was assessed for wounds, but apart from scratch marks from the lions, he seemed to have escaped relatively unscathed. He was very traumatised after his ordeal and the sanctuary team spent the first night with him in the enclosure to monitor his progress.
A recent update reports that the calf has accepted the bottle of specially formulated milk and is drinking about 16 litres a day. He remains in a small enclosure and is still on a drip.
Having survived all that he has, the calf has been named Nhlanhla which means ‘the lucky one’. Below is a video of Nhlanhla eagerly slurping milk from his bottle at Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary.