Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too

by Wildlife Conservation Trust
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Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Big Rhinos Need Big Hearts Too
Lula and Khulula surrounded by lush greenery
Lula and Khulula surrounded by lush greenery

Summer is finally here, which means it is rainy season and the bush is lush and green. This suits our rhinos as they are able to hide themselves well in the dense areas while having plenty of grass to snack on too. In the summer months, Lula and Khulula’s lucerne feeds are reduced because the bush now provides the food they need.

An interesting fact to note is that for the first week of ingesting their summer green diet, their dung takes on a green appearance as their bodies adjust.

In Esmé's case, she retires to her boma at night and is therefore still given lucerne to eat. Esmé is proving to be a great big sister to orphaned rhino bull Thaba and along with their sheep companions, Mielie and Vlooi, they go on many adventures together in the bush during the day.

Once again, we thank each and every person who donates towards the care of our rhinos. Thanks to you, they are not only well fed, but their security is also taken care of, which allows them the ability to spend what we hope will be many more peaceful days out in the wild.

Esme, Thaba, Mielie & Vlooi (front) munching
Esme, Thaba, Mielie & Vlooi (front) munching
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Lula and Khulula munching on lucerne
Lula and Khulula munching on lucerne

As it is now officially spring in South Africa, we are patiently waiting for the arid winter landscape to begin showing the first shoots of green grass and leaves - once we receive our first good downpour of rain, of course.

In the meantime, our rhino girls, Esmé, Lula and Khulula, continue to get daily lucerne feeds to supplement their nutrition until there is adequate green vegetation for them to eat.

An interesting fact about rhinos is that they deposit their excrement in a pile in specific spots only. This is called a midden – to transmit information about their sex, age, territorial status (males) and estrous state. We remove the excrement to areas where land erosion has occurred. Rock barricades are then placed around the excrement to prevent it from being washed away with the summer rains. In this manner, eroded areas of land can be revived, which in turn allows for vegetation to grow and provide food for our animals. Ecology at its best!

If you have been following us on social media, you would have seen that Esmé has slowly been introduced to orphaned baby rhino, little Thaba. Thaba lost his mother when she was killed by poachers, and at a mere 3 months of age, he arrived at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre to be cared for. Esmé has been extremely patient with the little one but is quick to enforce boundaries when he keeps nudging at her to play and she isn’t in the mood to do so. We hope that the bond between these two will continue to strengthen and that Esmé takes on the role of either a surrogate mother or big sister.

Please keep checking back for our next update or follow us on media for regular info. We would also like to sincerely thank each and every supporter who donates towards the upkeep of our rhinos. Thanks to you, we can continue to provide them with food, love, care, and of course, very necessary security.

Little Thaba spending time with Esme
Little Thaba spending time with Esme
A pile of Esme's midden
A pile of Esme's midden
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Khulula sedated & blindfolded
Khulula sedated & blindfolded

In October last year, we reported that Esmé was dehorned. This time, it was Khulula and Lula’s turn.
We support the dehorning of the rhinos at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) as it helps to deter poachers. Of course, dehorning isn’t a permanent fix because rhino horns are made from keratin like our fingernails and toenails, which means they grow back.

The dehornings took place over two days, with Khulula and Lula getting dehorned on separate days. Wildlife vet Dr Rogers was on hand to facilitate the procedures and he was assisted by other staff members, as well as the HESC curators, who ensured that everything could run as smoothly as possible, with the least amount of stress to the girls.

Khulula’s turn came first, followed by Lula. In each instance, they were darted with sedation medication, given earplugs to minimise noise and blindfolded to reduce stress. A Jelco was placed into one of their ears to allow for medication to be administered if needed. The horns were then sawn off and smoothed with an angle grinder. The remaining stumps were oiled to prevent cracking. Once completed, the girls were woken and could reorientate themselves to go about the rest of their day in peace.

While these two dehorning procedures were sponsored, your contributions still make a huge difference, as the rhinos need to be kept safe, especially in the periods when their horns start to grow back. Apart from the anti-poaching units on site, regular maintenance to the electric fences and alarms needs to be done, which can run into large amounts.

Now with the winter months in full swing, Khulula and Lula are given lucerne bales each day to supplement their nutrition. Because they are left to their own devices in the bush, they mainly feed off the abundant green vegetation during the summer, but during the winter season, the dry ground and leaves do not suffice. Esmé is given lucerne all year round, as she is monitored more closely and doesn’t have as much free reign yet to explore and feed.

Your support helps us to ensure that the girls are well taken care of and that one day, they can be released into the wild to live out what we hope will be a long, prosperous future. Thank you!

Khulula's horn sawn off
Khulula's horn sawn off
Khulula awake
Khulula awake
Lula before procedure
Lula before procedure
Lula's horn smoothed down
Lula's horn smoothed down
The girls are doing well
The girls are doing well
Munching on lucerne
Munching on lucerne
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Lula and Khulula spotted next to the pathway
Lula and Khulula spotted next to the pathway

The summer rains have blessed Limpopo province with lush greenery and the animals are certainly loving their environment, which makes for good photos too.

Lula and Khulula are given free range to explore and prefer to keep to themselves by hiding in the dense bush, away from any human interaction. They do however occasionally make an appearance for the curators to photograph them.

During the summer months, they aren’t given any lucerne bales because they are able to graze off the abundance of green grass available to them at any time. Being white rhinos, their lips are wide, allowing them to pull at the grass to eat.

Esmé also continues to venture out each day with her friend Mielie the pedi sheep by her side. Because she stays in her boma area at night, she is still given lucerne bales in the evening to sustain her.

Dense bush does of course also mean that ticks are an ever-present pest to the rhinos. In the wild (and also at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre), red-billed oxpeckers can frequently be seen on the backs of the rhinos picking at the ticks, which provide a juicy meal for them to enjoy. The curators however also spot treat the rhinos for ticks to prevent possible infection, which could have devastating consequences for the rhinos.

Even though Lula, Khulula and Esmé are given their freedom to roam about, they are closely monitored by the antipoaching team on site, as the threat of poachers is still a very real and valid concern.

Thanks to you, our valued supporters, the efforts to rehabilitate and care for these rhinos can continue. 

Esme grazing on the new sprouts of grass
Esme grazing on the new sprouts of grass
Lula and Khulula allowing a close-up
Lula and Khulula allowing a close-up
Red-billed oxpeckers feeding off the ticks on Esme
Red-billed oxpeckers feeding off the ticks on Esme
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Dr Rogers coaxing Esme to lie down
Dr Rogers coaxing Esme to lie down

Rhino horn is highly sought after on the black market – fetching as much as $25 000 per kilogram. It is for this reason that poachers will go to great lengths to obtain it, with no regard for the immense suffering, and often death, of the animal. At HESC we support dehorning to deter poachers, sad as it is to remove that which is so characteristic of the rhino.

Recently, it was Esmé’s turn, as her horn had already grown to a sizable length. Our vet, Dr Peter Rogers, was on hand to facilitate the procedure. Esmé was darted, then coaxed with a blanket to lie down in a comfortable spot, her eyes covered to relax her and given earmuffs to quieten the noise.

Once the medication and oxygen were administered, the procedure could begin. Firstly, the horn is sawn off, then the rough edges smoothed down with a grinder and lastly, a coat of oil applied to the stump to prevent cracking. The whole procedure takes around 45 minutes and Esmé was soon back on her feet. Our other two rhinos, Lula and Khulula, do not yet need this life-saving intervention, but we will monitor their horn growth closely and when the time is right, they too will be dehorned. 

Ensuring the security of our rhinos remains a top priority for us. Your generous contributions through GlobalGiving enables us to address safety issues through various means, around the clock, while also maintaining enclosures and providing veterinary care and food. In winter when natural grazing is often insufficient, bales of lucerne are provided to supplement the natural diet. 

We remain extremely grateful for your support and contributions to the conservation of this iconic species. With your support we can continue with our work. The species must never disappear of the face of our planet!

The horn is sawn off
The horn is sawn off
A grinder is used to smooth any rough edges
A grinder is used to smooth any rough edges
An oil coating is applied to prevent cracking
An oil coating is applied to prevent cracking
Esme is back on her feet!
Esme is back on her feet!
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Organization Information

Wildlife Conservation Trust

Location: Pretoria - South Africa
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Trust_Wildlife
Project Leader:
Lente Roode
Pretoria, South Africa
$109,574 raised of $150,000 goal
 
2,384 donations
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