It was in the early hours of the morning when a 38 year old white rhino cow, was poached on a private reserve. She left behind a scared and innocent five month old calf who fled from the poachers and into the bush.
The young female calf was suddenly orphaned and left to fend for herself. After five days without a sighting of her, hopes that she would be recovered in time began to fade.
Thanks to the commitment and efforts of multiple organisations and individuals, a desperate and final attempt to locate and rescue the baby was carried out. Miraculously the young calf was spotted, and an intense rescue mission began to unfold. She was darted and quickly loaded into a vehicle to begin her journey to Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary.
Dr Ferreira du Plessis, the veterinarian involved in the rescue of the calf, drove with her through the night until she arrived safely at her new home. The Care for Wild team were ready and waiting for the new arrival. We were expecting to receive a hypothermic and hypoglycaemic calf, but Lilli surprised us all with her strength.
It soon became apparent that this little one was a survivor. Her mom was known to the rangers of the reserve as an ‘exceptional mother.’ Lilli already knew where she could eat and drink water safely. Within a few hours she was drinking milk from a bottle and the first goal had been accomplished!
It wasn’t long before she was moved to her own nightpen, where she learnt to put her trust into those caring for her. She was even brave enough to follow her caretakers onto the scale!
When Lilli arrived, nobody knew that she would later be the calf to restructure our entire reintroduction protocol! Lilli needed the company and companionship of other rhinos but the only viable group to join was just about to be released into the IPZ (Intensive Protection Zone)
Petronel decided to see whether the much older group would accept Lilli…it was love at first sight! Zac, Jemu, Grey and Spirit encircled the little orphan and walked away with her. From that moment Lilli spent every second with her new family. The other rhinos even took it in turns to chaperone her during feeding; they didn’t even try to steal her milk!
As time went on, Lilli’s older crash mates were growing restless in the bomas and anxious for more space and freedom. After the Winter passed and the warmer weather arrived, we decided to release the whole group into the IPZ. Lilli would be the first rhino ever to enter this phase whilst still drinking milk.
It was a huge success. Lilli and her crash transitioned seamlessly into their new home; they even introduced themselves to the much older and bigger rhinos. Lilli looked so tiny walking amongst rhinos such as Storm, Olive and Timbi but they were very gentle with her. The rhino monitors would call Lilli from the group to give her milk at feeding times and Lilli would drink this gratefully before turning around and heading right back to her rhino family.
These days Lilli can be found close to her best friend, Jemu. She may be the smallest rhino in the IPZ but she is full of confidence and even puts the biggest rhinos in their place. Her mom would be very proud of her.