Endangered rhinoceroses are, sadly, being hunted to near-extinction for their horns, which fetch high prices on the black market. And when this baby rhino lost her mother to poachers, it’s amazing she survived. Now, remarkably, she’s learned to love again – and she’s become inseparable from the object of her affections.
This baby rhino, Nandi, was supposed to grow up under the guidance of her mom. Naturally, she would have matured into a strong and majestic creature living in the wild. But her future was, tragically, snatched from her in an instant.
Greedy for the money her parent’s horn would fetch, poachers killed the little rhino’s mom in late 2016. Fortunately, baby Nandi escaped the poacher’s guns. However, with no family to protect her, her chances of survival were slim.
Nandi was just two months old when she found herself alone and terrified in the wilds of South Africa. Sadly, she was forced to wander, helplessly, for days. Understandably, then, she was starving – which is why she started eating sand.
“Unfortunately when young orphans are alone they tend to eat anything, including harmful sand due to hunger,” the Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation (WHWF) wrote on Facebook. Luckily, Nandi was rescued by the WHWF before she became too weak and ill.
Rhinoceros poaching is a serious problem in Africa. Indeed, one of the mammals is slain, on average, every eight hours. Today the Rhinocerotidae family has four living genera, all of which have at least one species that’s either vulnerable, near-threatened or critically endangered.
Actor Paul Blackthorne, from the TV show Arrow, has partnered with Save The Rhino International, a U.K.-based charity, to help raise awareness of rhino poaching. Unfortunately, however, the problem has only become worse in recent years.
“The facts about poaching were shocking – I just couldn’t believe it,” Blackthorne told eco-conscious website One Green Planet. “What many people don’t realize is that this is a new poaching crisis… Around 90 percent of rhino horn poached in Africa ends up in Vietnam [and China].”
Poachers target rhinos for their horns, which some eastern cultures believe have medicinal properties. What buyers don’t seem to understand, however, is that rhino horns are made from keratin, which is found in human hair and nails. Horns, then, are no more beneficial than chewing on your own fingernails.
If poaching stopped, little Nandi – who was lucky enough to be rescued – could look forward to a brighter future. She may have been removed from the wild but, on December 3, 2016, the baby rhino, whose name means love, was taken in by The Rhino Orphanage, a WHWF-run sanctuary in South Africa’s Limpopo province.
“When Nandi first arrived at The Rhino Orphanage, she was everything a rhino shouldn’t be,” WHWF wrote on its website. “[She was] alone, scared, sick, traumatized.” And while they mature into robust adults, baby rhinos can be very vulnerable – and Nandi was no exception.
“[Eating sand] could’ve been fatal to the tiny two-month old cutie,” WHWF added. “When this happens, the rescues are treated by adding psyllium husks to their food to try and flush out the sand from their intestines. In Nandi’s case, this process has worked very well.”
When she arrived at the orphanage, Nandi, who needed milk every couple of hours, was bottle-fed by her handlers. And feeding time, in fact, is the best time to treat a baby rhino’s injuries. “Bullet or slash wounds [get treated] during feeding times while [they’re] distracted,” WHWF explained.
As with all young rhinos, Nandi’s eyes were sensitive – and so a lubricant was regularly applied to keep them moist. She responded well to treatment, but the harrowing loss of her mother was traumatizing. Understandably, then, she was terrified of humans.
Well, most of them, anyway. “[Rescued rhinos] are very scared,” WHWF reported. “For the first few days, they will have around-the-clock care; their carers even [sleep with them] on mattresses to monitor their vital signs.” And Nandi’s caregiver was a young woman called Jamie Traynor.
When Nandi arrived at the orphanage, Traynor was there for those crucial first few hours. And before long, the baby rhino developed a strong bond with her surrogate human mom. Indeed, it seemed Nandi had fallen in love with her caregiver.
Now, Traynor accompanies Nandi on her daily walks and wallows with her in the mud – just as her real mom would have done. And such interaction has helped Nandi to come out of her shell. Indeed, she’s started to play.
Safe in the orphanage and under the love of Traynor, Nandi’s personality has bloomed. “She’s a little rhino with a big attitude,” WHWF revealed. “[She] has given Jamie many bruises already but she’s slowly getting to know the caregivers.”
“This means she is on her way to recovery, having been rescued only two weeks ago,” the charity reported in December 2016. “[But] it is still a very long road ahead before this tiny rhino can be completely rehabilitated and returned to the wild.”
“In Nandi’s case, it seems as if the adorable baby is out of the woods,” the charity concluded. “Luckily for her, Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation and The Rhino Orphanage will do everything in their power to make sure she grows up to be strong, healthy, wild, free. And, most importantly, safe.”