Mar 25, 2010

Big, Black and Beautiful

By the book baby season is meant to draw to a close at the end of February (as should have the rainy season) but as is life – nothing ever goes according to the book.
Our rain seems to be arriving late this year and we can only hope that we will receive what we need to carry us through what was beginning to look like a very dry year.

The next item on the list of things that did not seem to be abiding by the book is….
Can you guess? Nope, try again….. getting closer…. Oh, ok I’ll tell you….

A baby BLACK rhino

At 4 weeks old she arrived on the 21 February 2010 which fell on the last Sunday of the month. For those of you who have not yet joined our volunteer program. Sundays are usually quite days where everyone can relax a little and take a break from all the hard work. The guides usually get things done on the farm that they cannot get to during the week when busy with tours or a catching up on studies. Nothing is usually planned for a Sunday in terms of activities… except when the unexpected happens!

We received a call from a nearby Game Park to say that they had received reports from visitors that there was a rhino calf stuck in a mud wallow. After further investigation they discovered that it was in fact a Black Rhino. Usually the protocol in parks such as these is to maintain a natural system and allow things to occur as they would in the wild; however after much deliberation it was decided that they would step in and rescue the calf. She had been stranded for 2 days and her mother had given up and abandoned her. She was on her last legs.

Brian sent through 2 guides and our volunteer vet nurse immediately to collect the precious cargo. On arrival the vet nurse assessed the situation and spoke to the vet on site – this baby was in a desperate condition. To add to the ordeal she had just suffered she had chronic diarrhoea and had scraped her back right leg severely whilst struggling to free herself from the mud’s suffocating grip.

She was rushed back to the Rehab Centre. Shy of her new surroundings, Brian and Natalie coaxed her tentatively out from the vehicle and she was lead into the clinic room which had been made ready for her. Treatment began immediately and after days of liquid faeces streaming down her legs the medication took affect.

Now her bowel movements are almost normal and her leg has all but healed! Her rhino mommies take her outside during the day to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and she loves nothing more than bolting after her minders as they run huge loops around the garden. Somehow this has no effect on her energy limits and she stands waiting impatiently after her relay partner has slummed into an exhausted heap!


We have missed having a rhino prancing through the rehab grounds. Having a rhino of a different species is wonderful and we are all learning the subtle differences in behavior and antics. We are hoping that the black rhino calf’s natural instinct to follow behind will make leading her away from tempting distractions slightly easier. The differences are tallying up but certain things remain the same across the board. A huge appetite and a growing thirst accompanied by pleading whistles and bumping reminders at meal times is something that seems to be consistent with rhinos no matter if they’re black or white.


We are lucky enough to be able to help this one baby, but she is a small drop in a very large ocean when we look at the challenges that are being faced in rhino conservation. All 5 species of rhinos are close to extinction. The White Rhino has rebounded and is now listed as Vulnerable. The Black Rhino has not been as fortunate and is still listed as Endangered.
Since the 1960’s the black rhinos’ numbers have dropped from an estimated 100 000 to a pitiful 3000. The cause of the decline is not the same reason as it is for many of our threatened mammals. Although habitat loss does play a large part, the high demand for Rhino Horn on the Black Market is the major reason!  In certain cultures it is believed that Rhino horn can be used to cure a number of ailments such as typhoid, fever and even snakebites. We are quick to turn around and points fingers and claim that it is due to Rhino horns being used in traditional Asian medicines, this does play a part but one must remember that Asia used rhino horns for 1000’s of years for traditional healing without threatening the species’ survival. However demands for items such as ornate dagger handles carved from Rhino horns (which indicate status and wealth and the demand for which grew with the increase in oil sales) have greatly affected the trade.
The trade of rhino horns has been banned but the black market is still thriving! In 1990 the pair of horns from a Black Rhino were being sold for a whopping $50 000.00  - at this price how do we expect a poor local inhabitant to resist?
Syndicates are no longer primitive in their methods. Lately they have been pulling out the big guns – swooping down in helicopters, darting with anesthetic. People who are entrusted to serve and protect our animals are jumping in on the band wagon which is rolling towards the jackpot and stringing along the demise of these archaic looking animals in their wake!


In some areas officials are taking drastic steps to save the lives of their charges. Rhinos are being darted and their horns are sawn off. This may seem barbaric to some and the affects of this are not really known. The one obvious downfall is that the rhino is loosing a valuable weapon on self-defense. But these creatures are fighting a battle where they are up against enemies and predators whose tactics are more highly evolved. By removing the one main item of value the spot light is detracted from this treasure.

What do we do??? How do we prevent this once seemingly indestructible creature from teetering over the edge of extinction?

3 comments:

Edwin said...

Does it have a name?

asafbenlevy said...

It's so wonderful that you have a black rhino now! I remember Thabo very well and wish I could be in the rehab now to see the new one.

Keep on the good work. I hope to come back sometime.

Asaf

Anonymous said...

You ask what should be done - the answer is simple: STOP rhino poaching NOW. As long as South African Government does not take a strong stance on the protection of our rhinos, they are doomed.