The Remarkable Story of the Earless Rhino: Then and Now
“When you go through all the effort of relocating a breeding nucleus of a critically endangered species, it follows that you would pull out all the stops to try and protect them. Especially when it comes to Botswana’s only wild breeding population of black rhino. Which is why, one Wednesday in November, Wilderness Safaris and Rhino Conservation Botswana were scrambling to organise a veterinarian, helicopter, truck and a team of people to rescue a tiny black rhino calf.”
In early 2017 we shared the remarkable story of the tiny rhino calf that had been found badly injured and without ears. While it was not clear what had injured the rhino, we believe from the type of injuries that most likely it had been attacked by hyaena. At the time of the incident the calf could not have been more than two weeks old.
Fortunately the fate of this little calf started to look more promising after being found by Pitso Modimbura, one of our dedicated Rhino Monitors. Pitso quickly reported the calf and our teams from Wilderness Safaris and Rhino Conservation Botswana got together to organise a veterinarian, helicopter, truck and a team of people to rescue the calf.
As you can imagine this was no easy task. The mother was still in the area and highly protective of her small offspring which meant our team had to be extremely cautious. The next few steps involved darting the mother from a helicopter, while one team on the ground followed the mother and helicopter – all the while keeping an eye on the calf.
The calf was in such poor condition that it was possible to lift him into the back of a Land Cruiser. The mother, now sedated, was loaded into the truck and driven to the secure boma where the calf was waiting. The team got to work straight away treating the calf’s external injuries, rehydrating and administering painkillers and antibiotics.
Being careful not to wait too long for fear of the mother rejecting the calf, the next step involved covering the calf in his mother’s dung to mask other scents. The mother was now isolated in a separate boma with everyone waiting in great anticipation to see how she would react upon seeing the calf.
As soon as the separation door was opened the mother came tearing into the new space and headed straight towards her calf. Hearts sunk upon seeing the mother lift up the calf with her horn – everyone fearing the worst. Then, at the last minute, she appeared to recognise her youngster and gently let him down to the ground.
The calf and mother went on to spend the next six weeks in the boma being carefully monitored and treated by our experienced rhino teams. We knew that the little calf’s survival was by no means guaranteed and we waited with bated breath for each update to find out how the pair was doing.
And then on 24 January 2017 we shared the happy news that both mom and baby were released back into the wilds of the Okavango Delta. The calf had shown great improvement over the six-week period and the team felt that the time was now right to set them free.
Ever since their release our Rhino Monitors in Botswana have been keeping an eye on the mother and calf and we even have a recent picture of the two – allowing us to see our now matured rhino calf – one year later!
The calf is reported to be healthy and doing well, and, despite not having ears or very good hearing, has managed to survive in the wild. The team has named our survivor Magono: the Setswana word for an earless being – whether a person or animal – or someone with very small ears!
The hard work and commitment of our team, and the efforts they went to in protecting the rhino calf, have certainly paid off. We’re looking forward to sharing more photographs of Magono with you – our very strong wild survivor.
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