|In November 2014, a four-month-old female white rhino calf arrived at Care for Wild AFRICA rehabilitation centre in Mpumalanga. The calf’s mother had been poached and – in the week that followed – she herself had sustained a terrible wound to her front right foot.
The calf was infested with ticks and was suffering badly from abscesses. “Rhino are highly sensitive animals and – as you can imagine – these baby rhino arrive at our sanctuary having just experienced a horrific ordeal that pushes them to their absolute limits,” explains Edyta Wozna of Care for Wild. “Not only do they witness the brutal slaughter of their mother, but they are then left to fend for themselves in the wild until they are rescued, which can take many days.”
The exhausted calf arrived at Care for Wild in the early evening and the centre’s founder, Petronel Nieuwoudt, remembers seeing the rhino orphan shining brightly on the horizon as the rescue team brought her in. Later that night, as she was lying by the calf’s side, Petronel decided that this little one was going to be called ‘Venus.’
“It was on that first night that I noticed the foot wound,” says Petronel. “I was comforting Venus and talking to her softly in a way not many people will understand. I was ‘holding her hand’ and that is when I found the wound and we started treatment immediately.”
It is thought the wound was sustained shortly after Venus’ mother was poached. Terrified, the little orphan went crashing through the bush and most likely caught her foot on a fallen branch or the debris of a thorn tree.
To protect the gash from becoming infected, a special cast was made for Venus. This meant that she couldn’t join in when her fellow orphans were enjoying mud baths, but according to her caregivers, Venus has always been one of the centre’s sweetest rhino – mud or not, she’s happy as long as she’s with her group of baby rhino.
In May this year the cast was taken off, but recently Petronel and her team of vets noticed that Venus’ walk still looked slightly hampered. An x-ray confirmed that there was a small infection in the front toe. The team has since treated Venus with a tourniquet and localised antibiotics. “She’s walking like a champion again, so we are expecting good news from the next x-ray,” adds Petronel.
It has been almost a year since ‘Venus’ arrived at Care for Wild and this beautiful animal is now well on her way to a full recovery, in spite of the serious injury to her foot.
Each of the orphans at this centre has a story. Whether it’s Wynter, whose ears were torn off by hyenas in the week after her mother was poached, or Don, whose heart stopped in the helicopter as rescuers tried to save him from severe dehydration, malnutrition and post-traumatic shock.
Some people might say: “What’s the point? This battle is futile.”
To that we answer that, one day, Venus may mother her own calves. And those calves will be the animals that rebuild the rhino population in our country’s wild places. More important than that – our rhino do not deserve to suffer these harrowing ordeals and our team is proud to be able to partner with an organisation like Care for Wild that rescues rhino orphans and gives them a second chance.
We will keep all our readers up-to-date on Venus. In the meantime, look out for more stories about Konica Minolta South Africa’s ‘magnificent seven’ on www.ourbizhubworld.co.za