A calf for Thandi, South Africa’s poaching survivor

14 January 2015

Thandi, the rhino that survived an attack by poachers almost three years ago, has given birth to a calf, much to the delight of her caretakers at Kariega Game Reserve outside Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.

In March 2012, Thandi and two male rhinos were found after their horns had been hacked off with machetes by poachers. The two males died, with Thandi defying all odds to survive – thanks, largely, to the dedicated care she has received from wildlife vet, Dr William Fowlds.

Thandi has undergone numerous operations over the past two years, including pioneering skin graft surgery.

“I am sure that the whole rhino caring community will share in the joy of this amazing birth,” Fowlds said. The vet has taken Thandi’s story around the world – including to Vietnam and China – to raise awareness about the fight against poaching.

“Thandi’s story has always been an incredible testimony of the will to survive. She represents so much of what her species faces under the current poaching crisis.

“Her survival has already given us inspiration – but the birth of her calf brings a new dimension of hope to the crisis, showing us that a future generation of life is possible if we put our minds and hearts to it.”

South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world. Figures from the Department of Environmental Affairs show an escalation in the number of rhinos being poached. Over the past five years 3 569 rhinos have been killed by poachers, with 1 116 rhinos killed in 2014 alone.

“We have been waiting for this day since we first discovered that Thandi was in the third trimester of her pregnancy in December 2013,” Alan Weyer, general manager at Kariega, said. The gestation period of a white rhino is between 15 and 16 months.

“It is incredible that the rhino we found so close to death nearly three years ago is now the mother of a beautiful calf. Thandi has shown huge resilience in her fight to survive. We are absolutely thrilled.”

For the safety of Thandi and her calf the area is off-limits to all visitors, the reserve said on Tuesday in a statement. “It is of most utmost importance that both rhino are left undisturbed to ensure that the calf has the best chance of survival.”

Adrian Steirn, WWF’s photographer in residence for South Africa who has documents the fight against poaching across Africa, was able to capture images of the mother and calf immediately after the birth.

“I have been photographing wildlife for years but to have been able to capture this incredible moment was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

“Thandi’s story has captivated the world since she became a beacon of hope in the fight against rhino poaching. To see her with a beautiful, healthy calf is truly a privilege and should inspire optimism and renewed commitment to protect these incredible creatures.”

SAinfo reporter