iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s Eastern Shores section has received a boost to its existing black rhino (diceros bicornis) population with the recent introduction of a young pair. Both were abandoned by their mothers under different circumstances, leading to them being removed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff with a view to re-homing them. The male, now about 4 years old, has been in a large boma in the company of a long-suffering goat for two years, enabling him to grow sufficiently large to fight his own battles when he seeks out his own territory. He originated from Mun-ya-Wana (Phinda) where his mother, harassed by a cantankerous male over turf wars, turned tail and left him and a sibling to their own devices. The younger sibling died but he continued to make good progress under the watchful eye of dedicated Ezemvelo staff at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi’s Game Capture Centre.
Fortuitously for him, during his waiting period in the iSimangaliso boma, a young female at Ithala Game Reserve was reported as similarly abandoned by a notoriously “bad mother”, known for her non-maternal tendencies. Although less than three years old, she was mature enough to survive independently and declared an ideal mate for the male, and a plan was made to set them on the course for a potential relationship.
According to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Chief Veterinarian, Dr Dave Cooper, “Black rhino are unfortunately their own worst enemies. They are highly intelligent, fiercely territorial, inquisitive and tend to attack first and ask questions later. Single males are a nightmare for us because they cannot be introduced into an existing population – that would be their death warrant. And of course, a lone male is not a happy chap either. iSimangaliso already has black rhino but has plenty of space and ideal habitat for more, and an area was chosen some distance from the known population in the hope that he would not encounter opposition in the near future. With the attraction of a nubile young rhino-wench, we are holding thumbs that they will find each other to be good company and form their own new territory and perhaps start a family.” The relocation went off without a hitch, and it seemed that Cupid was spot-on as their spoor confirmed that the two had met up. Lucky guests on two different concessionaire night drives unexpectedly encountered the animals the following night; however the female decided to do a bit of extra sightseeing, surprising park staff with her unexpected midnight grid crossing from the main Park into the Game Park section of iSimangaliso later that night, as well as iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis on his early morning cycle (which he quipped afterwards “turned out to be a faster ride than usual!”). She was hastily re-caught by the Game Capture team and once again placed in the bosom of the Eastern Shores, with extra measures in place to deter a repeat escape