Mother Rhino Nandi dies at 21

Nandi, the Female Rhino at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Image as originally published by The Independent.

Staff Reporter, The Independent Uganda | March 3, 2021

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Nandi, one of the female rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is dead after suffering from a yet to be identified illness, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, UWA.  Nandi is one of the parent rhinos which were imported to revive the rhino population in Uganda. 

Her health started deteriorating with the loss of body weight and reduced activity, which were noticed around August 2020. “Her resting, feeding and drinking behaviour were not normal as was known before. By that time, Nandi was expecting her seventh calf,” Bashir Hangi, the UWA Communications Manager says. 

She could, therefore, not be handled like any other sick rhino in her condition. “A lot of care had to be taken to avoid putting her life and that of the unborn calf in danger.  

Hangi said that UWA veterinarians have been at the sanctuary several times to manage every stage of her health condition that included administering antibiotics, de-wormers, and picking samples for further investigations. The first suspicion was that Nandi had intestinal worms and relevant remedies were applied but did not yield fruit. 

“Nandi was safely immobilized by our veterinary doctors on January 27, 2021, for further examination. Samples were picked and tests conducted at Lancet laboratories and the National Animal Disease Diagnostic and Epidemiology Centre,” he says. 

The results from the serum chemistry done at Lancet Laboratories were shared with Rhino Fund Uganda Management and other stakeholders, to boost investigations. The vets who tried to save her life say that Nandi presented with low sodium and chloride, low creatinine but normal urea, low bilirubin, elevated Aspartate Amino Transferase (AST) and total protein with very low albumin. 

A post-mortem was undertaken by a team of pathologists from Makerere University and Wildlife Veterinarian from UWA shows a generalized proliferation and enlargement of all the lymph nodes. Other significant lesions in the advanced stage were observed in the lungs, kidneys and along the gastrointestinal tract (GIT).   

Nandi, the 21-year old female rhino was born on July 24, 1999. She was brought together with Hassani (a male rhino) to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary from the Disney Animal Kingdom, Florida, the USA in 2006. This pair was part of the first six white rhinos that were re-introduced in Uganda. By the time of her death, Nandi was a mother of seven, including a seven-month-old calf. She was laid to rest on March 1, 2021, at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. 

The two, together with four other rhinos earlier introduced from Solio Ranch in Kenya, started a breeding nucleus that has since grown to 35 rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary located in Nakasongola District, 170 kilometres North of Kampala. The death of Nandi and her daughter Achiru leaves the total number of rhinos at the sanctuary to 33 individuals. 

Nandi had her first calf named Obama in June 2009 and later Malaika “Angel” the female on June 4, 2011. Both Obama and Malaika were the first rhino calves born in Uganda in more than 30 years since the rhinos were declared extinct in 1982. 

Nandi has left another four surviving off-springs; Uhuru (8), Sonic (6), Apache (4) and Armiju (2). Her last born Achiru was born at the summit of the mother’s illness earlier this year but died at Uganda Wildlife and Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) last month, after the mother’s failure to feed her.

Off her calves, Malaika and Uhuru gave birth to three and two calves respectively.  

Ziwa Ranchers Ltd, a land management company teamed up with the UWA and the Rhino Fund to reintroduce rhinos in Uganda in 2005, an idea that conservationists today call a success story.

It is increasingly becoming a popular spot for rhino trekking by tourists, mainly as a stopover for those going to Murchison Falls National Park. Ziwa is around two-and-a-half to three hours from Kampala along the Gulu highway.