Our baby rhino Maalim, aborted prematurely by his mother in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary on or around l7th December 2008, will soon be two years old. This minute calf, who stood just 8 inches high and weighed 25 kilos upon arrival could have fitted into a lady’s handbag but, being a rhino and with communications so bad, a Caravan aircraft was dispatched to bring him to safety in our Nairobi Nursery. Upon arrival we were stunned by what was a curious minute apparition who looked more like a wrinkled reptile than a rhino! We never expected him to survive the night, let alone thrive from day one, but he instantly downed a bottle of Lactogen formula and never looked back, soon recovering normal size for his age. That was until a month ago, when he contracted pulmonary pneumonia..
According to our Vet, even premature human infants are vulnerable to respiratory problems and obviously, so are rhino babies, especially those born too soon so that the lungs may not have formed entirely. Maalim underwent a long course of injectable Nuroclav but even after that, there was little improvement in his condition, so he underwent a further long injectable course of another antibiotic as well as injectable Cavasan, a bronchial dilator plus cough syrup, extra vitamin C and B added to his four hourly milk feeds. So many injection punctures has left him very sore and lame, so out came the Reparel gel and Arnica ointment massaged on his hind legs.
From the very beginning Maalim needed a daily moisturizing massage of Shea Butter to soften and nourish his dry flaking skin. All rhinos are extremely sensual, and adore any sort of rubbing, especially on the tummy and nether regions. The daily massage has continued in his Night Stable in the evenings when he returns from the bush, and when he lies down on his foam rubber mattress, which ever since day one, has played a significant role in his life. The mattress is associated with pleasure and comfort and initially it had to accompany him during sorties out in the bush, carried by the Keeper with him each day, so that he could rest and take a nap whenever needed during the rounds of the dungpiles and urinals of Shida and the wild rhino community – a very vital process of safely integrating a new rhino back into an established rhino community. As Maalim grew the Mattress has never lost its appeal but instead of lying on it at night, he wanted it over him. Hence it is heaved around until it lands right on top of him, and only then will he settle down and sleep, his nose peeping out of one end, and his tail the other.
So, the first indication we had that Maalim was not quite himself was the mattress, which suddenly was by his side rather than on top of him. And the first indication we had that he was on the mend was again, the Mattress, which was back on top. Meanwhile the daily massage continues, part of the ritual, and for this a large tub of Shea Butter has been donated by a kind well-wisher. Maalim now occupies the Stockade next door to Elephant Orphan Olare and his condition is gradually improving, slowly but surely with every passing day, although the cough syrup and vitamins and mineral intake continuea, with other supplements added to his milk such as cooked oatmeal porridge. His sore bottom, as a result of so many jabs, is massaged with Reparel Gel and Arnica Cream and aside from being covered by the mattress at night, 4 blankets are added to it along with 4 wrapped hot water bottles positioned strategically around his body! We doubt than any baby rhino has ever had such pampering, but Maalim is an exceedingly precious member of the Nursery, deeply loved by us all as well as his many foster-parents world-wide – probably the first such prem baby ever to have been successfully hand-reared. However, he is by no means out of the woods yet, so please remember him in your prayers!