Typical of black rhinos, Apollo enjoys routine, familiar faces and known surroundings, which sees his daily outings with his Keepers taking him to the places to which he has become accustomed.
We have been blessed with some incredible rainfall across the Tsavo region in recent months. The rains began way back in early October, and unbelievably here we are, well into a new year and new decade, and the rain is still falling! The rivers are full to the brim, and even lazy sand luggas are dry no more. Luckily, the rains are punctuated by some brilliantly sunny days in between, which helps the land spring to life. The wilderness positively pulsates from all the breeding, building, and buzzing that this season brings.
No one is happier about his rainy circumstances than Apollo. His present home is close to two rivers: The Athi, which is a permanent river, and the Mtito River, which is a picturesque rocky lugga. The Mtito River flows only when rains fall further towards the Chyulu Hills, sweeping the lugga clean and leaving behind deep, clear pools of fresh water.
Both rivers are a veritable playground for little Apollo. He loves to clamber up the steep embankments and loll on the cool white sand while he gets rubs from his Keepers. He trots happily along the beach and takes little sips from the still pools along the lugga. All the scents around these watering spots are of great interest to Apollo, as he is very much a creature driven by scent, so he spends hours exploring and investigating them — all while making sure his own territory is clearly marked.
When the heavens open, this just serves as a cue for Apollo to become friskier than ever. He leaps and spins and charges around, slipping and sliding, hoisting red muddy piles with his little snub horn cheekily perched atop his nose. Beneath the sheltering arms of the giant baobabs or flat-topped acacia tortilis trees, the Keepers stay dry and watch their little charge having the time of his life. Any efforts to coax him back to his stable during a downpour are in vain: It’s the wet conditions that really spur him on, and when he has bursts of exuberance, Apollo listens to nobody!
Rhinos are solitary creatures by nature, and Apollo is very comfortable keeping his own company. He does love to have his Keepers by his side, as he knows where the tummy rubs and warm milk bottles come from, and he is quick to run to them if ever he gets startled. However, he could certainly have playmates if he desired them as Kaluku, where we are currently raising the little rhino, is the Trust's field headquarters and home to several other orphans. Baby buffalo Ivia is very keen to befriend him, but this is a rather one-sided affair, as Apollo responds to all Ivia’s invitations to play by charging at him with his rather robust head!
Indeed, Apollo has grown rapidly in the four months since we rescued him. He is in peak condition, possibly even bordering on chubby! This is hardly surprising, given that he still savours his bottles of milk and has a bounty of greens second to none this season. He’s beginning to look less and less like a baby, and more like a pint-sized version of an adult rhino.
Apollo's bedtime routine is always the same. Once he’s in for the night, he promptly hoist his mattress over his back like a little wearable tent. When that is firmly in place and fitted to his liking, he wanders around his cosy wooden stable and samples the greens that have been cut for him. With this little ritual completed, he flops into the soft hay — under the mattress tent all the while — to enjoy a well-deserved sleep. The comforting presence of his Keeper sleeping on the bunk above him completes this blissful picture.