Last year, poachers shot a female black rhino and her calf in southern Kenya. The mother was killed and the poachers hacked off her horns. The calf took a bullet in the neck that night but somehow managed to escape into the darkness.
We were sure that if the bullet wound didn’t kill him then the elements would, given his very young age. However neither did, and he was named Bahati, meaning ‘good luck’ in Swahili.
Since then, we have watched him grow up via images caught on camera traps, following his initial recovery from the bullet wound to his stumbling attempts to form social bonds with other rhinos.
On Wednesday this week, one of the same camera traps provided distressing news – Bahati had a poacher’s snare around his neck. It was a snare targeted at rhinos, made of thick cable that would have pulled tight around Bahati’s neck as he walked through it. Somehow, after what must have been a horrendous struggle, he was able to snap the cable, which is a testament to the character of this rhino.
However, in the process of fighting and breaking the snare, the cable had dug deep into his neck, and if he wasn’t found in time to remove the snare and treat the wound, Bahati would die.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was quick to react to the news, and rangers from both KWS and Big Life Foundation flooded the area on Thursday morning, searching relentlessly all day. Having found fresh tracks, The Tsavo Trust and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust stepped up immediately, providing an additional spotter plane and helicopter.
Pilots and spotters spent the afternoon flying tight transects over the area where Bahati was suspected to be, and a vet was ready with a dart gun.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t be found in the thick bush. The ranger teams headed back to base for the night, and, somewhere out there, Bahati continued his struggle.
Today, on Friday the 18th of September, the tracking process has started again, and it is heartening to see so many from different organisations involved in the search. This might take days or it might take weeks. There is no telling what the outcome will be, but no ranger on the job will rest until Bahati is found. This little rhino deserves every bit of help humans can give him.
UPDATE: It is with sadness that I write an update on the search for Bahati, the snared rhino calf. On the fourth day of the search, rangers finally managed to follow Bahati’s tracks for long enough to catch up with him. The helicopter was in the air immediately and the vet managed to dart him in the thick bush, but the wound and its effects were just too severe and Bahati never woke from the anaesthetic. Bahati has now followed his mother in succumbing to the ridiculous beliefs held by certain eastern societies about the effects of rhino horn. This has been a big emotional blow for the rangers working here in southern Kenya, but everyone is refocusing their attention on preventing this from happening again.
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