Crisis Zimbabwe Update – May 7, 2009

Meet the Orphans – Part 3

Sassy was orphaned at four months; she was found two days after her mother had been shot by poachers for her horn.

Sassy was born in June 2008 and is the smallest of the rhino calves, with a normal pointed horn. Sassy was orphaned on October 31, 2008; she was found in the Bubiana Conservancy by ranch scouts two days after her mother had been shot.

Sassy remained very close to her mother’s carcass, even when people were moving around nearby, so the Lowveld Rhino Trust staff decided to capture her in a net instead relying on the usual drug darting that can be risky in the high October temperatures (around 40˚C). Once caught in the net, Sassy was given a tranquilizer in order to calm her for transportation in the crate so she could be taken to join Blondie and Millie.

Sassy was a completely different story from Millie, and violently attacked anyone who even thought about coming near her. She was so quick with her violent head butts to people’s shins that she retired a six-man-capture-team in three days with injuries. So new men with fresh legs needed to be roped into the ring for a further two violent days before Sassy realized that the milk bottle was a good thing and started to feed willingly from a bottle.

Millie, Blondie and Sassy outside in their paddock.

Millie, Blondie and Sassy outside in their paddock.

All three young orphans now live together and will be raised and released as a group, or crash, as a group of rhinos are known. Millie and Sassy have become very closely bonded, but Blondie is generally the leader, being the eldest and largest of the three.

Now that the three orphans are settled in their routine of bottle feeding, they are allowed out into a well-fenced paddock to browse and exercise during the day. All three will need to be bottle-fed for another year before they are weaned. They will be kept in the paddock for another year past weaning, until they are big enough to be released completely back into the wild where they will face lions and hyenas.

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