As it turned out, we had let our collective breaths out a day too early! We had held them, waiting for the Christmas full moon evenings to darken again, whilst the monotone ring of the cell phones startled us with every unidentified call. Usually those only meant bad news and the latest one was no different.
Early on the morning of 29 December, the ranger from a neighbouring reserve happened upon the recently butchered carcass of a white rhino cow. Her swollen udder gave away her status as a nursing mother. Her skittish and secretive nature had kept her away from the piercing eyes of the helicopter pilot a few months earlier and thus she had eluded the de-horning process, practised by so many reserves in an effort to curb the senseless killing. She was the one and only rhino on the entire reserve to have done so! It was for that reason that she was targeted, we have no doubt, an inside job - definitely and all we can hope, is that the culprits who committed this atrocious crime will be caught and dealt with appropriately.
It took five long, hot and tiring days to locate and finally get close enough to baby “Chipoko” (ghost) in order to send a tranquilising dart into her quarters. She was found 12 kilometres away from the carcass of her mother, having run and hidden, living on drought-stricken grass and muddy water for the duration of the search period.
It was little wonder then that Baby “Chipoko” took to the bottle quite soon after her relocation to the Rhino Revolution Rehabilitation Centre, where she will spend the foreseeable future, under the watchful eye of a team of professional rhino keepers.
You can follow the progress of “Chipoko” and the other rhino orphans on www.rhinorevolution.org