Heartbreak with the loss of Maarifa

Published on the 27th of March, 2019

It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the devastating loss of Maarifa, who passed away on the morning of Monday 25th March. It is difficult for us to comprehend the events, which happened so quickly and so unexpectedly, because over the past five months Maarifa has thrived in our care, doted on by her ever attentive Keepers and very much the boss of the Nursery compound enchanting all who met her.

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Maarifa returned to her stable as normal on the evening of Sunday 24th March, trotting back from the bush behind her Keepers and showing no signs of ill health. Her night duty Keeper reported that he was unaware of anything being amiss until 6.00am the following morning when she declined her feed and appeared to have an extended stomach. By then she was passing copious amounts of stool and was clearly in discomfort.

The alarm was raised and we immediately called the Vet and as advised administered medication but by 9.00am she had passed. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Vet Dr. Ephantus performed an autopsy to ascertain what could possibly have happened and early indications are that she died as a result of hypovolemic shock, brought on by a type of colic. For all of us it is hard to comprehend the speed at which she deteriorated, especially given how healthy she had been up until then, and the reasons for this happening so unexpectedly.

Maarifa arrived into our care on 2nd November 2018. She had been encountered the day before by KWS Rangers on patrol in the rhino sanctuary within Meru National Park, stuck in mud, with her mother struggling to extract her calf. The Rangers observed the situation for some time and could see that, sadly, the mother’s attempts were making the situation worse for her calf. Eventually, mindful that the days old white rhino calf might otherwise not survive, they took the decision to intervene and help the calf out of the mud.

Once free, Maarifa began to trot after her rescuers, who were trying to retreat a safe distance to hide and allow mother and calf to reunite. They did manage to separate themselves from the calf and observed from afar, hopeful that mum would come and retrieve her infant. As the day progressed, Maarifa’s mother only moved further away and, desperate as they were to see them reunited, the KWS helicopter was called in to guide the mum closer to Maarifa. As day moved into night the Rangers were forced to carry the calf in their vehicle to a Ranger base within the sanctuary, where she was given a mattress and blankets to keep her warm during the night.

The next morning, the Rangers set about their task again, with the helicopter locating Makosi, Maarifa’s mum, who is a well-known member of the population kept protected in the sanctuary. They tried for hours to encourage a reunion; however Makosi showed no interest in the calf and, with temperatures, soaring Maarifa was becoming visibly weaker . By 3pm KWS made the tough decision to transport Maarifa to our Nursery in Nairobi National Park, as they knew she could not survive another night without nourishment, having already gone some 36 hours without milk, drinking rehydration fluids that had been provided to her by KWS Vet Dr. Rono of the SWT/KWS Meru Veterinary Unit.

KWS requested us to care for Maarifa, conscious of our experience in successfully raising milk dependent infant rhinos and given our location in Nairobi Park, which is home to wild living white rhinos, so Maarifa would have transitioned into this wild population when grown. From the moment she arrived in our care Maarifa took ownership of the Nursery compound. Like all rhinos, she very much knew her own mind and would walk where she wanted to go, with her Keepers always following closely behind. That being said, she loved her Keepers so much that when they needed her to head in a certain direction, she would follow, and especially at day’s end, when she was always keen to trot back to her warm stable and enjoy a bottle of milk.

For the five months Maarifa was with us she brought so much delight to all that knew her, full of character and energy. She loved to rush about, chasing the wild living warthogs at the Nursery, playing running games with her Keepers and marking ‘her’ territory. Maarifa’s good health and full of life character made the situation on Monday morning all the more difficult to bear, coming so completely out of the blue. We know that, like us, everyone who knew Maarifa’s story will be heartbroken by this news.

Little Maarifa touched the hearts of all who met her and learned of her story. She brought great joy to our lives and, in time, we must find some degree of solace in knowing that for the last five months of her life, which would not have existed were it not for the KWS Rangers that rescued her or the subsequent care provided by the Keepers, Maarifa lived a charmed life full of fun, love and adventure.

It will take time for all of us to come to terms with events but we wish to thank Maarifa’s foster parents and those that support us for your understanding during this most crushing time.

For those that did not know Maarifa, or simply wish to remember her, you can read her story here

Maarifa's story