By Jack Flanagan

A BABY rhino abandoned as a newborn due to a case of mistaken identity was saved by a local rescue team

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Videographer / Director: Divan Grobler
Producer: Nick Johnson
Editor: Joshua Douglas

The baby rhino consumes 15-20% of his own body weight of a special formula resembling his mother’s milk

On December 31, staff at the Aquila Rescue Centre, in Cape Town, South Africa, received a call about an injured young rhino calf.

Close to midnight the team discovered a newborn white rhino slumped in the dirt.

The mother had mistaken another calf for her own - and so had abandoned her baby. 

The team at Aquila Rescue Centre have come up with an plan to slowly reintroduce him into the wild

Divan Grobler, one of the team who found the baby, spent the night with him to see if the mother would return. 

The next day the Aquila crew headed out early to try and reintroduce the calf to the mother - only for her to reject him again. 

He said: “In the early morning, after about four hours, the mother still hadn’t come back for the baby, so we had to improvise.

Best buddies: Divan, one of the team who found the baby reads to the little rhino

“We took him back to the mum and tried to reintroduce him, but we were unsuccessful. The mum was totally confused.”

The father also intervened during the attempted reintroduction - recognising the calf he got between him and the rescue team.

The rhino, now one-month old, lives with the team at the Aquila Rescue Centre
Selfie: Divan Grobler takes an adorable selfie with the rescued baby rhino

Divan added: “We were stressing and panicking. The infant was getting dehydrated. He had gone ten hours without nutrition - it’s vital he gets milk from the mother.

“We separated the father from the calf, and then took him to a secure location where we could get him the nutrition he desperately needed.

Feeding time: Team member, Divan, bottle feeds the baby rhino with nutritious milk

“We didn’t think he would make it with all the stress. But thanks to his warrior’s spirit, he’s still going strong.”

The rhino, now one month old, lives with the team at Aquila Rescue Centre, who have developed an 18 month plan to reintroduce him into the wild.

Looking after the young calf is a full-time occupation, with the baby needing to be fed every two hours. 

Buddy up: The Rescue Centre will also pair the baby with a sheep, a close genetic relative of the rhino

Each day, he consumes 15-20% his own body weight of a special formula resembling his mother’s milk and as a wild animal, he needs plenty of exercise.

He will also be assigned a mentor to teach him how to graze, something his mother would have done. 

The Rescue Centre will pair him with a sheep, a close genetic relative of the rhino. 

Releasing a healthy white rhino back into the wild is crucial for conservation, especially with poaching being a huge problem

Releasing a healthy white rhino back into the wild will be crucial for their conservation. 

Poaching is a huge problem - the species numbers once dropped as low as 50 in the early 1900s, despite few other natural pressures like predation. 

Traditional Chinese medicine, which believes the horns have medicinal value, has created a market for unlawful poaching, with more than 7,000 white rhinos lost between 2007 and 2016. 

However, conservation efforts have been overwhelmingly successful, with recent numbers estimated as high as 20,000. 

When the team got to the site they discovered a newborn white rhino calf slumped in the dirt, ignored by its mother

“This guy is vital in the conservation effort,” Divan said. 

“He can supply a strong bloodline and genetics for the white rhino’s future.”

To raise funds for his care, the centre is running a competition to pick his name, which will be announced Feb 8. To enter visit: https://www.facebook.com/Aquilasafari/photos/a.112064745515240.15362.108368995884815/937367679651605/?type=1&theater

For the year and half it will take to build up his strength, the Aquila Rescue Centre is appealing for donations. To donate visit www.animalrescuecentre.co.za