In January 2019, Spirit, Grey, Jemu and Lilli entered the first stages of rewilding and were released into the first phase of the Intensive Protection Zone. Over the last three and half years, this crash of young, orphaned rhinos has learned to survive through harsh winters and hot summers. They have been schooled by the older rhinos in crash hierarchy, group dynamics and social interaction. Given Storm’s recent interest and behaviour, it seems likely that both Spirit and Jemu have also entered oestrus. With this milestone ticked and competition for resources increases, the decision was made to move Spirit, Grey, Jemu and Lilli to the next stage of their rewilding journey.
This month, vets from wildlifevets.com, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and SANParks, joined the Care for Wild team to relocate this crash of rhinos to their new home and protected area. The rhinos were darted in pairs to ensure that they were with their friends when they woke up. First Spirit and Grey were immobilised by the veterinary team. Blindfolds and earplugs were applied. Intravenous catheters were placed in their ears for emergency IV access during the move. As part of the ongoing security and protection of the rhinos, their horns were also trimmed. Grey was also fitted with an AI-enabled tracking collar.
Spirit and Grey were then given drugs to partially reverse the immobilisation allowing them to walk to the transportation truck and onto the stretcher. Additional drugs were then given to make them sleep for the remainder of the journey.
The stretchers were then fastened to the crane and Spirit and Grey were lifted onto the truck. Gone are the days when man power alone was enough to carry these orphans! They are both weighing over 1 tonne now! Once settled on the truck, they were both given supportive oxygen for the remainder of the journey.
After arriving at the release site, the crane was again used to remove Grey and Spirit from the truck. The two rhinos were positioned together and laying next to each other as the vets prepared to wake them up. A teff bale and lucerne had already been prepared ready for when they awoke. After the reversing agent was given, both Grey and Spirit stood up quickly. Although a little confused and calling for their friends, they soon settled and began to eat. With Grey and Spirit busy settling in, the team returned for Jemu and Lilli.