Miniature “Maalim”, our tiny newborn rhino who arrived in the Nursery on the l9th December 2008, having been orphaned when his rhino mother abandoned him within the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park is now 2 months old. Upon arrival, this miniature calf, whom we believe was probably born prematurely, weighed in at only 25 kilos, whereas two other newborns reared by Daphne Sheldrick in the past were 35 and 40 kilos respectively and twice the height of our latest rhino arrival. He stood all of 8 inches tall, the size of a newborn warthog piglet!
Maalim, so named after his Ranger rescuer, now weighs 30 kilos and has almost doubled his height. Despite being so young and new, there is nothing immature about his rhino instincts and personality. He has a definite mind of his own; huffs and puffs and charges the warthog piglets, whom he views as intruders to his domain, and who are twice his size. He knows his daily routine absolutely, which involves walking with his Keeper around the area of the Trust Headquarters, visiting other rhino dungpiles, and is firmly attached to his sleeping mattress, which probably reminds him of the comfort within his mother’s womb which he had to abandon ahead of time. Just one whiff of the magic mattress attracts him like a magnet! Immediately he hurries to it, smells it carefully and instantly flops ready to fall fast asleep, closing his eyes and even taking priority over his bottle of milk. Usually he has to be woken up again a short while later, and removed from the mattress to take his milk! When overcome by drowsiness during his daytime strolls, the mattress has to be brought to him before he will lie down and take a nap!
The mounting number of elephant orphans that have come into the Nairobi Nursery of late (totaling to date l9 in all,) has necessitated re-shuffling the night time accommodation of all Nursery inmates, including Maalim. He had to be moved to a corner of a stable whose partition had to be moved to enlarge the space opposite in order to accommodate three, instead of two, elephant orphans. Normally, this kind of disruption would be a Big Deal for a rhino, who is by nature fiercely territorial and very much a creature of habit, but insofar as Maalim is concerned, as long as the precious mattress is there, he is a “Happy Camper”. That said, much to everyone’s surprise, and despite the mattress, he did notice the absence of his night time companion Keeper during the first night in his new quarters, and began to cry with the mewing “wanting” vocalization of rhinos. Immediately, this absence was corrected, because any psychological stress to a newborn of any species, and particularly one that has already lost its mother, is exceedingly counterproductive to wellbeing and progress.
Maalim comes to “wow” the noon Open Hour visiting public after the elephant orphans have left just before closing time at noon. En route intriguing scent trails of other rhinos Shida included prove a compulsive disruption to his progress to the visitor venue, and then he has to be lifted up and physically carried in order to strut his stuff! And so, despite his diminutive size, rhino Maalim is, indeed, quite a character and an example of the strong innate instincts of his ancient species.