Brian’s reputation for his success with raising baby white rhino stretches back to his early days in the 60’s in the Natal Parks Board, where he lived in a cottage type hut. He was the first ranger to successfully raise four white rhino in those days.Since then he has had three young rhino’s in total come through this centre and two have successfully reached adulthood (the third came in with such bad injuries, our local vet Peter Rogers said he was amazed it lasted so long in our care after passing away from all sorts of internal problems it developed including broken ribs! ). So Moholoholo and Brian Jones seemed the obvious choice for Kruger’s new little bundle!!
‘Kuza’ as he was soon named, after Skukuza – the area in the Kruger National Park where he was found, settled in unbelievably quickly! After a long journey in the car and some initial struggles trying to get him to drink a special milk formula recommended by our vet Peter Rogers, he arrived at the centre, his new home for the next few months of his life! Our biggest concern was that this baby had not had any colostrum from its mother. Colostrum is the first milk drunk by a newborn, which contains all the nutrients and antibodies required for the baby to build its weak immune system. The formula which Peter Rogers recommended was as close to this important milk as we could get, and so was imperative that we managed to get this little baby to drink it.
Natalie Rogers our vet nurse in the clinic has had experience with the last few rhino’s and together with Brian and the rest of the anxious staff and students she immediately got to work feeding and bonding with our new arrival!
Kuza has been a huge hit with all of our students and having him from such a young age has meant he has bonded quickly and easily with people and his ‘mummy’s’! White rhino baby’s stay with their mothers 24 hours a day until they are at least 18 months old, and so in this same way we have Natalie or one of our students sitting and sleeping with him, day and night! He is completely relaxed and happy with his new two legged friends, and has built himself quite a reputation for his love of cuddles and closeness to people.
His first few steps outside the clinic were very cautious as he picked his legs up like he couldn’t understand this strange feeling under his feet! We all love his great big ‘inflatable’ feet which look like they have reinforced cushioning in them and his huge ‘periscope’ ears which are always twitching and listening in to every sound (even when he’s asleep). And after his initial reservations with the outside world he realized that these new sights, smells and tastes (he insisted on eating as much sand and dirt as he could suck up with his long blue tongue) were all rather intriguing! It wasn’t long before the typical baby skips and jumps started to appear, and his little legs picked up speed in no time!! Over the next few days he grew more and more fond of his outings, and you could often see him racing up and down the Rehab driveway without a care in the world! He was adjusting incredibly well to his new home!!
And then the next surprise arrived for us all, including ‘Kuza’!!
On the 4th October the Moholoholo Rehab Office received frantic calls from tour operators and members of the public in Kruger Park reporting a baby rhino stuck in a concrete trough in the Satara area. After many calls to the Park and speaking with various people in the conservation sector it appeared that the problem had been sorted out and the baby was out of the trough! However later that evening we received a call from the warden in the area, reporting that despite the fact that the baby was free from it’s ordeal in the trough, its mother had left and not returned to claim her baby!So the team yet again boarded the Moholoholo Bakkie and headed into the park to see what awaited them at Satara. A rather exhausted and pinkish baby white rhino greeted them at Satara (and instantly gained its name Satara, despite being a male), they took some Lactate, a re-hydration fluid, with them just to stabilize him until his arrival at the centre. Luckily the journey back to the centre was shorter this time and he was immediately settled down into a thickly padded clinic cubicle for the night, and given his first milk feed (which he drank down hungrily). Natalie continued to feed him every two hours through the night (which is our usual protocol for babies until they are stabilized).
The next morning we decided to introduce the two ‘little’ bundles……. when we say ‘little,’ our two new arrivals weigh in at 46kg’s and 51kg’s!!!!! The meeting was approached in usual rhino fashion – lots of slobbery lips and sucking, and nothing done in any rushed fashion. We have all come to realize the rather limited brain power of the white rhino, especially at such a young age! ‘Decisions’ if you like to call it, often take quite a while and ‘realisation’ happens slowly and after much deliberation!
Since their meeting they are slowly bonding together, although Kuza still holds a soft spot for his two legged kind, and the ample cuddles they offer him. Now after each feed we stand and watch these two little bottoms stroll off, side by side, in the direction of bed! Every so often they reach the doorway and stand, bemused, waiting for one or the other to make the decision to actually step through the door way to go to bed. And now and then Natalie has to ‘encourage’ one to make the first move through the doorway, before they both settle down to sleep, lying squashed up together to make sure one or other doesn’t get left off the mattress! ! Each night there is a battle between Natalie, Kuza and Satara for possession and space on the mattresses!However, don’t for one minute think that because there are now two of these little guys that life in the clinic or for Natalie is any easier!! She announced the other morning in the clinic that she has a new found respect for anyone raising twin boys!
We get daily updates from Natalie of the evenings shenanigans in the clinic! The most recent of which is their new love of silently pooing and walking their ‘waste’ all through the clinic and which does not escape Natalie and her mattress! The other is their ‘coincidental’ timing of peeing over her sleeping bag whilst she is busy holding a bucket underneath the other rhino or washing up the feeding bottles! However, for all of us who have the pleasure of ‘joint custody’ of these babies, and who don’t have to wake up every three hours through the night for feeds or cleaning up after them, they are an absolute delight and even Natalie does not hesitate to say “I would not change them for the world.”
Watching them both bouncing around in the garden together with their little tongues sticking out, or sitting on the floor whilst they both head towards you for cuddles is an experience which none of us or our students will ever forget! Kuza has this hilarious tactic of ‘plonking’ himself down at the foot of the mattress and slowly leopard crawling his way, bit by bit on his knees, further and further up the mattress until he is lying stretched out beside you with his big wet lips right by your face! He is still much more people orientated than Satara who seems to prefer his adopted brother’s cuddles for now!
We must say, you’ve never had a good cuddle until you have been cuddled by a week old baby rhino who’s whole world revolves around you and your company…………………………..
Until next time, when we will give you the update as to their progress as the weeks pass, and the kilo’s increase!!!