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Fall Turns Tragic for Rhino Calf

June 25, 2012

On Sunday, the 10th of June, Natal’s 7th calf slid and fell into a deep hole, resulting to injuries that would eventually prove fatal. The 23-year old white female rhino, whose sharp horizontal horn makes her distinct from other rhinos, was spotted by a ranger, with another of her calf and a male rhino, running frantically around a spot in obvious distress. On reaching the spot the ranger was alarmed to find Natal’s youngest calf, a 1.2 year old rhino, stuck head first in a 3 1/2 metre hole. One of its forelegs was also stuck, along with half of its body, resulting in an extremely uncomfortable, debilitating and life-threatening position. The calf, thrusting violently with its hind legs, attempted continuously to pull out of the hole with little success. The ranger was quick to alert Lewa’s research and security departments, and a team was dispatched immediately to the calf’s rescue.

The team, within minutes of reaching the area, was able to pull out the calf. However, it was obvious that the damage caused by the fall was extensive. It could barely stand on its own, its breathing was laboured and there were signs of severe dehydration and a possible dislocation of the right foreleg. The vet team treated the calf by injecting it with antibiotics to minimize chances of an infection, painkillers to ease the pain, multi-vitamins to encourage healing and glucose for energy. Its injured leg was massaged with an ointment to reduce the swelling and the discomfort experienced while walking. The calf was also rehydrated regularly. Normally rhinos wean off at the age of 2 1/2; the calf was therefore still feeding primarily on breast milk and allowing it to recover in the wild with its mother’s nurturing was preferred to isolating it for observation. A team was also deployed to keep watch of the calf day and night until its recovery to full health.

Despite all this, it was disheartening to notice that the poor calf’s condition continued to deteriorate, even with the Vet team’s numerous efforts to offer the best treatment possible. Natal’s 7th and youngest calf, at such a tender age, eventually lost her life, reducing the population of white rhinos on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to 56.

The deep trenches and holes, found in a few areas around the Conservancy, resulted after the heavy rains experienced late last year. Since Natal’s calf fatal accident, most of these have been filled up or expanded to prevent any further incidents.