On Sunday 16 November 2014, The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre got a very important call to say that Dr Rogers was on his way to collect a rhino calf, and that we should be prepared to take it in immediately.
In what felt like a matter of minutes, the boma where Gertjie (the baby rhino we took in on 8 May 2014) usually sleeps was cleaned and prepared with bedding, infrared lighting and a heater. With no further information, we waited in anticipation for the next call.
After what felt like hours we were notified that Dr Rogers and his team would be arriving with the calf in 20 minutes. It was with mixed emotions that we waited. While we were excited at the prospect of saving a young orphan, we all felt deeply saddened at the fact that yet another innocent animal would be forced to be raised out side of its natural environment.
The team finally arrived, and it was with amazement that we took in the size of the tiny sedated rhino. A very young bull of just a month old, he could fit comfortably in the back of Dr Rogers’ Toyota Prado. He weighed a paltry 60kg!
As he was heavily sedated for the trip to the centre, he was immediately carried to the space prepared for him so that Dr Rogers could reverse the drug and wake him up.
It is hard to describe the collective emotion in the room as we all took in the very small life that lay motionless in the middle of the floor.
When is this cruelty going to end? His mother was shot and poached for her horn, leaving him behind – utterly defenceless – to die. While details are still not clear, it appears that the incident took place on the evening of Saturday 15 November in the Hoedspruit area. The calf was found close to her lifeless carcass. Both animals were still covered in mud, and it is highly likely that the young orphan had just enjoyed his first mud bath before his mother was killed.
Shortly after waking, the young rhino made it clear that he was very hungry by trying to suck on his blanket. He was very confused – a new area, new smells and no mother. Even though he was still ‘groggy’, he was deeply traumatised and evidently petrified.
Everyone left the boma, and Karien Smit (assistant curator) stayed behind with a bottle of formulated milk. The first bottle is crucial for the baby’s survival, and we are very happy to report that he took it in with gusto. He is now feeding every three hours, 750ml at a time, and his current daily intake is around 6 litres. This will increase exponentially as he grows.
The baby rhino has been named Matimba which is a local Shangaan word meaning “strength” or “power”. He may be tiny in body, but his spirit is strong.
Matimba has been kept within his little ‘house’ over the last few nights with red lights and a heater. Karien has been accepted by him and he feels very comfortable with her. For this we are extremely grateful.
As the sun came out over the course of the morning of the 17th, Karien decided to let Matimba out to spend some time in its warm rays. As any curious baby would, Matimba immediately started to explore, but never moved far from his companion. And for that fraction of a moment, he seemed happy. It’s all the other moments, when he cries inconsolably, that the true story is obvious.
Said Greta, manager of The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, on 19 November 2014: “Christo and I slept with him last night. I was so emotional as he was crying so much it made me sick. He eventually went to sleep, and thankfully slept peacefully for the rest of the night. We can only hope that tonight, and every night thereafter, will improve.”
Each hour is critical at the moment, and we are ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to do what we need to to ensure that he does not become yet another tragic statistic.
To show your support for Matimba visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre’s online sponsorship, adoption and donation portal here.