By Rebecca Lewis @RebeccaSLewis
A BABY rhino takes its first tentative steps outside with its mother - seven years after the rest of the herd was cruelly shot by by poachers.
Young Tafika, a female, was born on November 27 and is the first birth at the conservation centre since poachers killed three black rhino – including her grandmother.
The new arrival and her mother Shanu live at the Imire Volunteer Programme, a 10,000 acre game park in Zimbabwe which breeds black rhino and releases them into the wild.
Tragedy struck the conservation centre in November 2007 when armed poachers broke into Imire at night and held the staff and their families at gunpoint.
After tying up the staff, the poachers entered one of the pens and shot and killed three of the adult rhinos for their horns.
One of the survivors was Shanu, who at just two-and-a-half years old was forced to watch her mother, Amber, cruelly slaughtered.
But the arrival of Tafika – Shanu’s first offspring - has brought hope to Imire, and the playful creature is keeping staff on their toes.
The black rhino constantly explores her surroundings, sniffs the breeze, bumps into things and runs out of sight of her mother.
Jane Palmer, from the volunteer programme, has welcomed the new arrival.
She said: “When we realised that Shanu was pregnant we were all over the moon.
“The first few months of a baby rhino’s life are often fraught with danger so although we were absolutely ecstatic that both mum and baby were healthy, we are keeping a close eye on both of them, especially as Tafika was a little bit premature.
“Tafika’s birth is a new beginning for Imire - the first birth since the poaching and the first of a new generation of Imire rhino. She is a truly precious gift that we are thankful for every day.”
Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth largest rhino population at just 458 black rhino.