Hayley Skirka, The National | July 17, 2020
The calf escaped an ambush by elephants and a lion attack after its mum was killed by poachers
An orphaned baby rhino has been rescued from danger in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
The seven-month-old male calf was spotted by a member of the environmental monitoring unit of Jock Safari Lodge, a private concession within one of Africa’s largest game reserves.
The staff member was on his way to work when he saw the rhino wandering alone by the side of the road. Knowing that rhino mothers very rarely leave their young, the man knew something was wrong so alerted the Kruger National Park Regional Rangers.
He followed the rhino as it walked into the bush, where he was joined by a Kruger Park official. The pair saw the calf approach a herd of elephants who were reacted aggressively, stomping and charging at the baby rhino. By clapping and shouting to distract the elephants, the men eventually encouraged the calf to run in the opposite direction.
Later, they found it standing by the carcass of its dead mother. The female rhinoceros had been killed by poachers and her horns had been removed from her body.
As the men waited for the Kruger response team, several lions tried to approach the calf but were deterred by the presence of the rangers.
A rescue helicopter then tried to land close to the men and the rhino but an elephant bull gave chase to the calf. The pilot managed to land in between the animals, separating them long enough for the vet to shoot a tranquilliser dart into the young rhino.
This gave the rescue team time to move in and give him first aid. An IV drip was inserted to treat dehydration and he was loaded into the helicopter and flown to the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary. This reserve in Mpumalanga takes on the responsibility of caring for many of the rhinos orphaned and injured due to poaching attacks.
After assessing the calf, the medical team at the sanctuary concluded that other than a few scratches, the rhino was physically unscathed, but traumatised. Over the coming days they provided 24-hour care: monitoring, de-sensitising the rhino to human voices and coaxing him to drink formula.
Having been at the sanctuary for over a week, the calf has started feeding and is drinking about 16 litres of milk per day. His blindfolds and earplugs have been removed and he will soon be introduced to another recently rescued rhino.
The sanctuary announced on Wednesday, July 15, that the baby calf has been named Yster, which means ‘Iron’ in Afrikaans. Iron composes much of the earth’s crust and core and is crucial to all living organisms.
Access to South African National Parks is currently restricted for most tourists. Some parks are open for self-driven visits but no overnight visits are allowed. Several conservation groups have expressed concerns that as well as a lack of income in the region, the loss of tourists has given rise to an increase in poaching, as the poachers have more free reign to hunt the animals.