Rhino Orphans hand-reared from infancy
The following is a list of the archived Rhino Orphans reared from infancy by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:
For more information on the specific orphan's we have raised please see their individual profile's below or refer to our Orphan Project Section of the site.
The first orphaned Rhino ever to have been successfully hand-reared, certainly in Kenya, and probably in Africa. A bull, born in Tsavo East National Park in the early l960's and found near the Assistant Warden's house in the early hours of the morning, as a newborn, his mother obviously having fled when dawn broke and the first workers began to arrive. He had a shaky start, since the milk formula and husbandry had not yet been perfected, but Dennis and Yuilleen Kearney managed to get him through his first fragile year before he was transferred into the care of David and Daphne Sheldrick. There he grew up with the early elephant orphans of Tsavo, Samson and Fatuma, soon joined by others. The relocation of Black Rhino back into the wild community had as yet never been undertaken, and, in fact, surprisingly, very little was actually known about the species in those days. When grown, Rufus, sadly, had a tragic end, having been "set free" near the Aruba Dam aged five. This became necessary when he took an intense dislike to one of his handlers whom he would attack on sight, despite being perfectly gentle and docile with everyone else. We never did find out exactly what this man had done to exact such retribution, but it must have been pretty bad, because Rufus was essentially a very quiet rhino, extremely docile, happy to be ridden by Daphne's two year old daughter, Angela. Some months after Rufus had been relocated, David Sheldrick was faced with the unpleasant task of having to shoot him to end his agony, when he was found mortally injured by a pride of lions and already dying on the Ndara plains of Tsavo
Born in 1963, this rhino was amongst those destined for relocation to Tsavo East National Park from an area known as Darajani which had been set aside for human settlement. He was only about two years old when he arrived in 1965, far too young for even a slim chance of survival in the wild. He was therefore taken into the fold, and grew up along with Rufus. He was given the name "Reudi" in honour of Reudi Schenkel, the Swiss Scientist who was conducting one of the pioneering studies on Black Rhino.
When grown, and after the death of Rufus, Reudi was relocated to the Northern Area of Tsavo East, where he was kept under surveillance. The experience of Rufus had taught us pitfalls of introducing a newcomer into an already resident rhino community, and in those days, rhinos were present in substantial numbers. Although he had a retreat in the form of a stout Night Stockade, he was nevertheless mercilessly hounded by a wild female, who even broke into his Stockade at night and almost battered him to death. Thereafter, in order to escape her attention, Reudi took to sleeping in the Athi River - not an ideal situation. Finally, battered and bruised, he was moved to a newly created ring-fenced private Ranch named Solio, owned by Court Parfet, and situated near Nanyuki, one of the very first rhinos introduced into this Ranch. Here Reudi healed and flourished, growing up to be a mighty highest ranking breeding bull. Solio ranch was later to yield the breeding nucleus that retrieved Kenya's Black Rhinos from virtual extinction, relocated and kept under tight security to repopulate former National Parks where they had been all but annihilated by the rampant in-house poaching of the 70's, 80's and early 90's. Many of those that have retrieved the species were fathered by our orphan, Reudi. When old, and in his forties, he was mortally wounded by a younger bull in the age old battle for dominance, but Reudi will always be remembered for playing a pivotal role for the country.
Orphaned in the mid sixties during a dryer than usual season, this female rhino orphan flourished from the start, since by now Daphne Sheldrick had figured out the milk requirements and necessary husbandry in order to rear an orphaned Black Rhino. Later, at the request of the National Park's Director of the time, Stub was destined to be the first Black Rhino to be sent back to repopulate Elgon National Park on Kenya's Western boundary with Uganda. Contrary to explicit instructions, however, Stub was placed in an enclosure in the Nairobi National Park Animal Mini Zoo with another already resident rhino, both to await translocation. She was promptly killed, something that Daphne found very hard to accept lightly, but in order to be in a position to make a difference, one must find the courage and tenacity to look forward rather than spare oneself the emotional trauma of such tragedies. This was something David Sheldrick insisted upon, for he was a born Leader impatient of time wasted in recrimination.
This female rhino, estimated to have been born in October 1970, came in in a terrible state, debilitated, loaded with blood parasites that cause Babesia and Trypanosomiasis, and suffering from pneumonia as well. Her mother was a victim of the terrible drought of 1970 which also provided the natural cull of an over-population of elephant. For almost a month Stroppie could hardly even stand, and she owes her life to Drs. Harthoorn, a husband and wife team who managed to pull her through this early ordeal. She grew up to become one of the famous early orphans of Tsavo, her Nursery companion a young zebra stallion called "Punda".
In 1976, when the corrupt Game Department seized control of the National Parks, David Sheldrick was transferred from Tsavo to head the country's Protected Area Planning Unit, but before leaving he secured the future of both Stroppie and another young bull called "Pushmi", knowing full well what their future would be were they to remain in Tsavo. Stroppie and Pushmi were moved to Solio Ranch and enclosed in a 50 acre paddock alongside the main Sanctuary, and there they remain, to this day. Solio Ranch, by this time, harboured a population of some 70 plus Black Rhinos, and all attempts at integration into the mainstream failed. Currently, Daphne Sheldrick is trying to persuade Mr. Parfet to return them to her for relocation into the new free roaming wild population of Tsavo, now numbering upwards of 50 animals, where there would be sufficient vacant space for both rhinos to establish a Home Range and become dominant and as such in breeding mode. In terms of the species, Pushmi and Stroppie are wasted where they are.
A young bull, orphaned along the Mbololo watercourse in October 1973, whose mother was disturbed by a passing vehicle immediately having given birth. Hence this calf had never suckled his mother, and arrived on Daphne's doorstep covered in foetal membranes, deposited by a tourist minibus. However, he thrived from day one, and along with Stroppie was ultimately moved to Solio Ranch in 1976, where he resides today along with her in the 50 acre paddock alongside the main Sanctuary. Several attempts to integrate both Pushmi and Stroppie into the mainstream rhino population of Solio Ranch almost ended in disaster, with Pushmi being almost killed by the resident dominant bull. The reintegration of a rhino into an already established population is a complicated procedure that has to be done through scent, involving the exchange of dung in the dungpiles for many months before one can risk physical contact. A newcomer must first be accepted by all the residents as rightfiully belonging within the resident community, since rhinos are fiercely territorial.
David Sheldrick died on 13th July 1977, just six months after being transferred from Tsavo. He was only 56, and Daphne became a widow when only 42. She was given permission by the Kenya Government to build a small bungalow in the Nairobi National Park, so that her work with the orphans could continue.
Orphan Sam was born in the famous Masai Mara in 1987, but his mother was unable to protect him from the numerous prides of lions. Both were moved to an island in the Mara River, but Sam's mother wanted to go back home, and swam back across the river leaving her tiny calf squealing for help. The lions heard his cries, and went across to get him, mauling him badly before being driven off by the Rangers stationed there to protect him. This orphan grew up with the first infant elephants Daphne reared, Olmeg and Taru, his stable companion a cuddly sheep called "Boozie" whom he loved dearly. He grew up to become an impressive bull, but then he and another orphaned rhino who came in soon afterwards began leaving the boundaries of the Park to venture into human settlement. Both were moved to Tsavo in June 1993, the first of many others that would follow in their wake as free release candidates, not enclosed within an electric fence. Sam did not have a happy ending. He refused to vacate a mudwallow in the Mbololo watercourse when a large Bull elephant wanted it, and was tusked. The injury was a mortal one, the tusk penetrating the Colon, and although Sam managed to return to the Holding Pens for help, and was attended by his ex Nursery Keepers and the best Vets, they could not control the peritonitis that ensued.
This female rhino's mother was speared by the Masai in Amboseli National Park when she was 6 months old. Therefore she was born in April 1987. For five days before being found Amboseli gallantly protected the body of her slain mother from both vultures and all other predators. Being of an age when she understood who had killed her mother, her hate of humans was such that it took is many weeks to calm her down, and even today she is not comfortable in human company. Normally rhinos are the easiest of animals to tame, even when grown, but Amboseli proved the exception. She grew up in the Nairobi Nursery with Sam and with him was first to be free released in Tsavo National Park, followed by an intake of another 20 from Solio - (Reudi's progeny). When Sam died, Amboseli was devastated. She wandered the Park far and wide in search of him, roaming much further than any of the other relocated rhinos. However, finally she was mated by an ex Nairobi bull called "Mathew" and settled down in a Home Range on the Punda Milia watercourse. She has had two calves, and through her, the last living famous Amboseli rhino, world renowned for their exceptionally long horns, that vital gene lives on in Tsavo.
A female calf, born during the Gulf War of 1991, who was very volatile when brought into the Nursery. Circling vultures were spotted in the Nairobi Park by Dr. Richard Leakey, the Kenya Wildlife Service Director of the time, and it was he who rescued the calf. The body of her mother was in an advanced state of decay, and like Amboseli, she had remained with it, defending it as best she could. In the process she was mauled by hyaenas on the hindquarters, and arrived minus a tail. Although Sam and Amboseli were still in Nairobi, but almost grown, and Scud had never physically met them, she missed their scent in the dungpiles and urinals when they left, and went into depression. However, she recovered and grew up to be a fine female asset reintegrated back within the Park, returning only intermittently to her Nursery base. We fully believed our role had been accomplished and that we could count Scud as one of our true successes, until the 20 th May 1996, when she laboriously brought herself home, using her chin to support her weight, her right foreleg limp and useless. There were no serious wounds to suggest anything other than a serious crash on the right shoulder, possibly caused by putting a foot down a pighole at full gallop.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, Scud was already 9 months pregnant by a wild Nairobi Park Bull. She was immobilised and dragged onto a large tarpaulin before being towed to the Trust's Rhino Stockade, for all intents and purposes unconscious at the time. However, when she was revived, she remembered every detail of what had taken place, and this would have a bearing on Daphne's decision when the time came to euthenase her and end her suffering.
The veterinary prognosis was never encouraging. Basically the radial nerve, which motivates all leg muscles, had been seriously damaged and only time could heal that, if at all. For the next 9 months we nursed Scud; trying everything we possibly could to encourage the healing of that vital nerve, but finally we had to accept that Scud faced life as a serious cripple. She hobbled around as best she could on three legs, still desperate to keep in touch with the wild rhinos through the middens, but at all times she had to be accompanied by her Keepers, since she was not sufficiently agile to take evasive action should the need arise. We kept her well fed and as comfortable as possible and at 4 p.m. on the 30th January 1997, her son "Magnum" was born. The Keeper who had been with Scud when she first came into the Nursery was with her at the time, and Scud trusted him so implicitly that he was able to handle the tiny calf from the moment he arrived. Magnum was truly a rhino of two worlds, equally as comfortable with Scud's trusted Keepers as he was with his own mother. He was an adventurous little bundle, prone to galloping off on a run-about, then getting lost, and crying loudly for help. Scud could not keep up with him, and this distressed her terribly, causing her to fall and injure herself again repeatedly. Finally, when Magnum was 3 weeks old, the Trust was faced with a terrible dilemma i.e. to face losing a healthy calf to predators, or put his crippled mother out of her agony, knowing that she would never be able to enjoy the quality of life she once knew as a free-ranging "wild" rhino. Scud was euthenased on the 21st February 1997 and Magnum became an orphan of the Trust. Bearing in mind that whilst supposedly unconscious Scud remembered every detail, Daphne insisted that once she had been sedated for her final sleep, she was shot in the brain at close range so that she would never know that her calf had been taken from her by those she trusted most.
Magnum was born at 5.30 p.m. on the evening of the 30th January, l997. He is the calf of our orphaned Rhino "Scud" also born in Nairobi National Park during the Gulf War in February l99l, her mother a cow named "Main Gate" who was found dead when Scud was just 3 months old. Scud had to be euthenased when Magnum was just three weeks old, crippled by a serious fall that severed the radial nerve of a front leg, leaving it paralysed.
For many weeks following the death of his mother, Magnum searched for his mother, crying pathetically and revisiting all the places they once shared, but finall he attached himself to another infant rhino who had been brought in just days before, named Magnet.
Like Sam and Amboseli, these two rhinos were reared together in our Nairobi Nursery, for three years attended by their Keepers doing the rounds of the wild rhino dung-piles and urinals to become known to the resident wild community. They were inseparable, Magnet replacing the mother figure that Magnum had lost in infancy. His love for her superseded even that given to his Keepers, and by February 2001 both were independent of their Keepers, out and about in the big wide world on their own, but returning periodically to touch base back at the Trust Headquarters. However, tragedy struck when Magnet died mysteriously just some 500 metres from the Trust premises.
Magnum’s grief following the loss of his Nursery companion was painful to witness. He was dejected and listless and looked positively ill for many months, hanging around the Headquarter and off food, which, for a rhino, is most unusual.
Today, Magnum is over his initial grief, and friendly with another wild adult cow and her calf, with whom he keeps company out in the Park on occasions. Being still a junior bull, he still feels insecure and is a regular returnee, spending time back in his Nursery Stockade where he has been able to become accustomed to another orphan, named Makosa. However, he finds Makosa too exuberant as a playmate, even though he is three years older. Makosa has a sharp horn, much the same size as that of Magnum, since Magnum lost his first horn against the bumper of a stationary vehicle, and has had to grow a replacement which as yet is not quite as honed as that of Makosa, and therefore less sharp! He has had several scuffles with wild bulls, returning with superficial signs of combat on his face, and on one occasion with a more serious horn wound in his rear, which fortunately missed the vitals, and healed well.
Magnet was born in February 1997 to a Nairobi Park cow named "Edith" and was separated from her mother when just 1 week old by the illegal incursion of Masai cattle into the Park. The mother fled, leaving her baby calling pathetically, which alerted the Rangers at Masai Gate to her presence. She was brought to us early one morning by the Rangers whilst the KWS Surveillance team tried to locate the mother, but by the time they had done so, five days had elapsed, and the likelihood of her rejecting her calf due to the human scent and time lapse was very real. Everyone decided that Magnet should be reared as an orphan, so that the mother would cycle again, and have another baby, which is what happened. Hence when Scud was euthenased, and Magnum brought in, Magnet had already been with us for one week, and was established.
Magnum and Magnet became inseparable, raised together, and integrated into the resident rhino community of Nairobi National Park together. She was a magnificent rhino, with prominent creases and folds in the skin more akin to a Great Indian than an African Black rhino. As such she was very distinctive and easily recognisable when grown.
By Magnet’s behaviour in February 2001, when she was five years old, we were sure that she was ready to be mated. She was fierce and unapproachable for about 3 weeks, and even aggressive towards Magnum, who took to returning alone and carried some war wounds. However, thereafter things returned to normal, and the two again became inseparable companions, so we assumed that Magnet had been made pregnant by a wild bull, Magnum being of too low rank to aspire to being a breeding male.
Unbeknownst to us tragedy had struck on the 19th February 2002, when Magnet was found dead by the Rhino Surveillance team, a mere 500 metres from the Trust premises. Astonishingly, we were never told, and she was hurriedly buried at night. We were puzzled that Magnum was again returning alone, and seemed so dejected and miserable, but assumed that Magnet might again be consorting with a wild bull. Then a whisper from the labour lines that a rhino had been buried at night alerted us to the fact that something was very wrong, and after further investigation, KWS confessed to the fact that the buried rhino was none other than our orphan Magnet! They claimed that she had died of Anthrax and denied us permission to exhume the carcase. However, since no rhino has ever been known to die of Anthrax, and because of the clandestine secrecy that surrounded her demise, we have been left with the uncomfortable feeling that Magnet was, in fact, either a victim of poaching, illustrating just how vulnerable rhinos are, irrespective of location or perhaps a victim of mistaken identity as a buffalo, killed in-house by corrupt elements for the bushmeat trade. Her horn was intact when she was found dead and was removed by KWS prior to burial.
Makosa was born on the 1st August l999 in the Rhino Holding Pens in Tsavo to an ex Nairobi Park cow who had been translocated to Tsavo East National Park. Due to the trauma of relocation, plus the side affects of the drugs used, the mother had no milk, so this calf came to us when 3 days old, almost dead for starvation and dehydration. His name means "mistake" in Kiswahili – the mistake being that his mother should never have been a candidate for translocation in the first place, being so heavily pregnant.
Makosa thrived from the first, a very exuberant, playful and healthy rhino baby who became known to Magnum and Magnet early on and regularly met up with them during his daily rounds of the dung-piles and urinals. Today Makosa is a feisty and unpredictable character, who promises to be a bull to be reckoned with when fully mature. Like Magnum, he returns to his erstwhile Nursery Stockade most evenings for a hand-out of supplementary food, but doesn’t stay long, and is not averse to getting up to mischief, coming through the glass front door of Daphne’s Guest House on one occasion, walking up the steps onto Daphne’s front verandah and heaving the furniture around on another. This has meant that one small "hot" wire has had to be erected around the house and carpark to deter such pranks, and persuade Makosa that there are certain "No-go areas" around the Trust Headquarters!
Other Rhinos that owe their Lives to the expertise of Daphne Sheldrick
Anna Merz's famous orphan, born at Lewa Downs Rhino Sanctuary, snatched from the jaws of death by the timely intervention of Daphne Sheldrick, having been fed on cows’ milk rather than Daphne’s tried and tested rhino formula.. Daphne feels somewhat wounded for never having been given any credit for saving this rhino’s life for by the time Daphne arrived, the calf was comatose lying on a carpet in the lounge, literally moments away from death. Subsequently, both Samia and Daphne became embroiled in an interesting saga involving the Government, the Pope, and the blessing by the Pope of a Black Rhino, aimed at launching Kenya’s initiative to save the species. At the Government’s insistence, this entailed removing Samia from Anna's care for a few days, and flying her down to the Masai Mara, following which, and having been blessed by the Pope in the venue of the Government’s choice, she was returned to Lewa Downs. Having reached adulthood, and given birth to a calf, Samia sadly suffered a very tragic end. She was pushed over a cliff by the resident bull, and her calf at foot jumped after her.
Two orphaned bull calves since hand reared according to Daphne's instructions by Jane Craig
Sadly the first calf was killed by a wild rhino whilst sleeping out at night. The second, named Omni still lives on Lewa Downs and is about the same age as Makosa.
A South African orphan, currently in a Zoo situation at a Wildlife School run by Clive Walker.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust P.O. Box 15555 Nairobi Kenya