September 15: The Young Rhinos

After visiting The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust we drive through the outskirts of bustling outskirts of Nairobi north to Ol Pejeta, arriving late at Kichepe Camp to overnight (read more about my first visit to Ol Pejeta).

The next morning we make the short journey to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, another private reserve with spectacular scenery and wildlife. As we enter we see the rare Grevy’s zebra, which have different markings to the regular zebra, giraffes, and a white rhino, who shows no fear of our vehicle as we drive by.

We go off-road through the bush to meet Yusef and his three charges, this time male black rhinos. The eldest – Nicky – is a bit of a handful and I have to watch he doesn’t step on my toes. He is blind and so had to be cared for. He’s fine as long as you get out of the way.

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Meeting three orphaned black rhinos (from left: Nicky, a blind baby rhino, Hope, his mother was poached earlier this year, and Kilifi, his mother is blind and cannot care for him).

Hope is from Ol Pejeta originally his mother fell victim to poachers earlier this year. The smallest Kilifi is very sweet – a tiny miniature rhino. His mother was also blind and so he had to be adopted.

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Saying hello to Kilifi.

As they trundle along next to Yusef and their other keepers the most striking thing is the gentle sound they make, more like a cat than the great powerful beasts they will grow into. Someone remarks they are like dinosaurs would have been, but their temperament and need for contact makes me think they are more like dogs.

So we take the “dogs” for a walk. I never thought I’d be walking a rhino!

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Just like all babies they love their milk.

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Feeding Kilifi, the smallest of the rhino orphans.

Indeed they try to suckle your fingers if you’ll let them. Yusef warns me to watch out for their powerful molars, but I get to feed them a bottle. And then of course they’re ready for a nap. Thankfully no burping!

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Feeding Nicky.

As they nap, Yusef asks me about China and why people in Asia still buy rhino horn. I explain that there is a traditional belief, but that legal traditional medicine stopped using rhino horn in 1993 in China and now uses alternative treatments. But some people don’t understand the price the rhinos have to pay for the use of horn and we hope with our film that we can raise awareness.

After a roll in the mud, its time for a snack and I get to see the lips of the black rhinos in action. While the white rhino has a flat wide mouth for maximum grass intake like a living lawn mower, the black rhino has pointed lips enabling them to nimbly negotiate the murderous spines most of the bushes and trees have here to graze on their leaves. I’m impressed they can manage it.

Later in the day we see the adult rhino in this beautiful setting and I hope that these young rhinos will safely grow to grace the landscape for years to come.

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One response

  1. Suzanne Benton

    Thank you so much for drawing attention to the subject of poaching. I think you are doing an amazing job. I feel, since you grew up in China and are familiar with the use of rhino horn in traditional medicine, you have a better understanding why people are still using it and what needs to be done to change it. I think too many times people who speak out against poaching make the people who are using the rhino horn as medicine, feel they are ignorant or stupid, which only makes them want to hold on to their beliefs even tighter. Only through understanding and education will people change. Making people see the animal as a living breathing being and seeing the devastation and the needless suffering poaching causes, is the best way to make people stop and think. Thank you again!

    September 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm

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