Around 09:30 on the morning of Sunday 3rd January 2021, SANParks’ rangers spotted a young rhino calf walking alone in the Tshokwane area of the Kruger National Park (KNP). Rangers searched the area for his Mom, but they could not find her. Although no body/carcass was discovered, it is suspected that she was killed by poachers. The young bull calf was estimated to be around 12-14 months old and too young to survive alone.
SANParks Veterinarian Dr Peter Buss and pilot David Simelane, darted the calf and flew him to Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary where Petronel and the team were waiting. He landed at the helipad just after 13:00.
At 12-14 months old, Kai only just fitted inside the helicopter. It took many strong arms to lift him into the CFW transportation crate. He was then driven to the CFW Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for round the clock assessment, care and monitoring.
Nobody knew when Kai had last drunk milk from his Mom, so he spent the afternoon on drips to combat dehydration. Kai slept peacefully until around 20:00 when he began to slowly wake up. Petronel knew that due to his larger size, he would need to be quickly moved down to the bigger bomas so that he could move around properly.
Kai slept well through the night, but he wasn’t interested in eating anything. This can sometimes be the case with older calves who are already very set in their ways and who have already established grazing patterns. The next morning, Petronel and the CFW team moved Kai into a bigger nightpen in the bomas and removed his earplugs and blindfold. Instantly, we could see his sweet and gentle personality as he quietly and softly moved around the nightpen and explored his new surroundings.
Although very relaxed, Kai still wasn’t interested in eating the beautiful buffet of teff, lucerne and pellets lovingly prepared by the caregivers. With the experience gathered from working with older and more challenging calves such as Mayar and Genesis, Petronel knew that sometimes it can take other rhinos to encourage a new calf to eat.
Petronel decided to introduce Kai to Dianna, Benji, Zac and Lomshi. Kai was initially very hesitant to leave the safety of his nightpen but after an hour or so, he ventured out into the sun and met his new family for the first time. The introduction was so wonderfully smooth and relaxed. Dianna instantly took the new calf under wing and is now playing the role of ‘Mom’ to both Lomshi and Kai. Dianna’s relaxed demeanour puts all the crash at ease and her protectiveness makes her a force to be reckoned with. She instils a feeling of safety and confidence in the babies which is glorious to witness.
Kai has adapted extremely well to his new life and Dianna and the other orphans have played such a vital role in this process. Within a few minutes of being with his new crash, Kai began to graze on the green grass and is now eating teff and lucerne, behaviour he copied from the others. The emotional bonds that rhinos form with each other, offer incredible support, especially during this transition process.
Kai is already a very well loved addition to the CFW family of rhinos.