During our recent trip to Botswana we drove up through the Kruger National Park, from Crocodile Bridge to the very northern boundary at Pafuri gate. About one hour’s drive into the Park not far from Orpen Dam, we encountered a number of cars that had stopped on the road. To our surprise there was a baby orphaned rhino wandering from vehicle to vehicle looking for his mother.
Eventually she came to our Jeep. I stepped out and a ‘spoke’ to her in baby rhino language which sounds like the combination of a dog howling and the high pitched sound of a bird tweet. She took my fingers and nursed for a while. Then she allowed me to stroke her gently, calming her somewhat. She was obviously dehydrated and had accepted water from a water bottle by one of the Kruger Limpopo Safari guides that was present. She continued wandering around but came back to our Jeep each time and to me. I was humbled and very sad. Where was her mother?? She must have died most probably having been poached, but there seemed to be no urgency to find her. Eventually after about one and a half hours the section ranger in charge arrived with his pickup bakkie and some helpers.
He asked all present to surround her and then they looped a rope over her torso and lifted her to the open back of the bakkie. I was worried she may hurt herself but he took the maneuvering of the baby in his stride, telling us that he had just recently loaded an even bigger orphan. It seemed like a common event.
We have had reports that the baby is doing well at a rehab. No news or confirmation about the mother’s death or otherwise has been received though. When I questioned officers at various camps why they did not immediately send a helicopter to the scene, they said it was not possible as the Helicopters were busy with census.
The question remains then: what happened to this little girl’s mother. It was a sad day to see the plight of her baby.