By way of Dave Jessup to all WDA students:
“A burst of automatic gunfire was heard in the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe’s Lowveld one recent late afternoon. Anti-poaching patrols rapidly deployed to the area and began tracking a black rhino cow and calf that had fled the site of the shooting. The cow appeared to be dragging her hind legs and was leaving a trail of blood, indicating that she had been badly wounded. From the location and the shape of their tracks, the injured animals were identified as ‘Double’ and her 16-month-old calf ‘Trouble’.
Double’s horn had been fitted with a radio-transmitter, so trackers were able to quickly locate the pair the next day using radio-telemetry equipment. Both rhinos had sustained gunshot wounds and required urgent medical attention. Veterinarian Chap Masterson immobilized the rhinos, finding seven AK-47 bullet holes in Double and one bullet hole in Trouble’s front knee. Fortunately, all the bullets had missed vital organs. Dr. Masterson gave antibiotics and vitamins to both mother and calf to help fight infection and aid recovery. Since Double and Trouble could walk well enough to find food and water, and since the mother could be tracked electronically, the team decided to leave the pair in the field and closely monitor their recovery.
The first tracking effort found Double moving well and feeding, but alone. Our team’s spirits sunk! Where was Trouble? Three weeks ultimately passed before Trouble turned up (photo above), walking well but thinner for the stress of being separated from his mother and his unintended early weaning – black rhino calves will suckle milk until they are 20 months old. Trouble now remains in the general area of his mother and we are confident that the two will find each other again, as black rhino cows and their weaned calves often do. Both have made remarkable recoveries and have not needed further treatment. Unfortunately, there will likely be plenty of times in the future when injured rhinos need veterinary care and/or rescue from poachers. We’d like to see them all have a happy ending, like Double and Trouble’s.
Please consider supporting our work with rhinos in Zimbabwe – they need your help to survive. IRF works in partnership with the Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe to protect both black and white rhino populations. Though poaching remains a serious threat that could worsen, sustained and committed efforts – biological management, veterinary care, strategic translocations, anti-poaching patrols, informer systems and legal actions – have helped to improve the situation. Rhino poaching deaths have declined from more than 70 per year in 2008 and 2009 to fewer than 20 per year in 2010 and 2011. During that same period, black rhino numbers have remained stable, white rhino numbers increased steadily and overall rhino numbers grew at an annual rate of 5%, despite poaching. The total population – more than 500 animals, including 32 calves born in 2011 – accounts for nearly 90% of Zimbabwe’s rhino population. Please give generously. Your donation will go directly to our Zimbabwe field program to support veterinary care, anti-poaching, and management efforts. Together, we can help to keep the momentum going.”