|When a rhino cow has a calf with her, which is often the case, poachers are under pressure to act fast. Once they have killed the mother, the horrified calf will make high-pitched squeals, attracting both predators and anti-poaching units that may be close by.|
The poachers need to focus on the activity that will earn them their bounty – extracting the mother’s horn as quickly as possible. If there are spare hands in the gang, the poachers will also kill the calf and attempt to extract the small stump of a horn that the young rhino has grown in its short life. In this business every ounce of horn is worth thousands.
On the 14th September 2014, a young rhino was found alone by section rangers in the Kruger National Park. Her mother had been butchered by poachers and it is assumed that the calf witnessed most of the ordeal.
“The calf spent four days with her mother’s carcass before she was found,’’ says Petronel Nieuwoudt, Founder and CEO of Care for Wild AFRICA, a rhino sanctuary where seven Konica Minolta adopted rhinos are kept.
“As soon as she was found, she was transferred to our sanctuary. You could see the bite marks on her legs, probably from hyenas. There is no guarantee that the orphans will respond to medication, and often, their wounds are beyond treatment.”
Nieuwoudt added: “The rhino arrived at 9:30pm and I remember noticing that she was extremely scared of shadows. We came to the conclusion that there were several poachers and their shadows and the outlines of their bodies loomed over the young calf as they were working on her mother. To this day, she is terrified of shadows. I can’t imagine what she went through. You could feel the vulnerability in her soul and to this day I remember our first meeting.”
The young calf is now not so young and she weighs in a 600 kilograms, a good 500 kilograms heavier than when she was found. Nieuwoudt named her “River” explaining that the river of life flows through this rhino. Today, River is one of Konica Minolta’s ‘magnificent seven’ adopted rhinos. She is one of the sanctaury’s most sociable animals (she hates being alone) and now, although the scars from her injuries remain telling a story of her past, her new home has set her on a path that she seems to be very content with.
We have visited River and her friends at the sanctuary and we can attest to the fact that she has a wonderful second chance at life in beautiful surroundings. Hopefully, one day, her own calves will walk the Earth and be part of the generation of rhinos that are able to live a natural life in the wild.
Written by GWF Media Academy.