Sophia was one of the most physically injured and emotionally traumatised calves to ever arrive at Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary. Her first few months in the ICU taught us more about trauma and depression than we had ever realised was possible. Her injuries shaped treatment protocols for future calves and her bravery and resilience gave us hope for every other orphaned rhino. Sophia’s story is truly astounding.
Sophia’s Mom was brutally murdered in the Lower Sabie area of the Kruger National Park. At just five months old, Sophia was fully dependent on her mother for protection. Wandering alone, Sophia thought she had found safety when she came across another crash of rhinos but the dominant bull chased her away and she was injured by his horn in the process. As night-time fell the hyenas circled and by dawn, they had half eaten her alive.
By the grace of God, Sophia was found, and the hyenas chased away by the rangers. On 16th August 2018 she was flown to the sanctuary by SAN Park’s Pilot Grant Knight and Veterinarian, Dr Peter Buss.
Sophia was transferred immediately to ICU where her injuries were assessed. She had bite wounds to her face, ears, tail and legs as well as a large puncture injury to her abdomen. For the next two months Sophia underwent multiple surgeries and procedures to heal her injuries but what about her emotional state?
Sophia spent the first few nights in the ICU crying as she slept. She was terrified of everything and even the comfort of warm milk did nothing to gain her trust in us. Who could blame her? She had lost her Mom, been violently injured and rejected by her own kind. Her spirit was gone and her heart was broken – she wanted her Mom and there was nothing we could do but tend to her wounds, ease her pain and send her love and positive energy.
Sophia had been with us for around three weeks but yet she was still so sad. It was at this point that Petronel told the team to step back. They must ensure that she had food and received her pain medication but Sophia needed space and time to process what she wanted. Did she want to fight and to live or was everything just too much for this little body.
It was five days later that the staff sat in a meeting next to the ICU and a little grey face appeared at the fence poles of the ICU boma in response to our voices…we cried! Sophia was a fighter, resilient, inspiring, brave and strong. She only continued to go from strength to strength and as her wounds healed, so did her heart.
The day that she was discharged from the ICU will be forever ingrained in our memories. Arriving at the bomas Sophia was reunited with fellow orphan Kayla-Milan who arrived on the same day as Sophia almost two months previously. These two have been inseparable ever since. Knowing the feeling of fear and rejection, Sophia was the first rhino to offer comfort to little Sparkle when she arrived at the sanctuary in December 2018.
Sophia has grown into a feisty and protective young rhino calf but she has soft side, motherly and supportive of the other calves. One day she will be a phenomenal mother.