Uganda welcomes 3rd rhino born in Ziwa Sanctuary in 2016

A naming ceremony of the rhino will be held soon

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Crystal Evans a wildife enthusiast smiles in delight upon the sight of Bella (the background) one of the rhinos at the sanctuary that gave birth this year. Photo by Solomon Oleny

As the world ululated and toasted to the start of July, conservation enthusiasts were ululating to the start of a new life. Donna, a four year old rhino in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary had just given birth to a bouncing baby bull—few hours back.

Even more exciting is the manner in which he was born at the reserve that doubles as breeding ground for rhinos in Uganda.

Typically, few minutes to giving birth, an expectant rhino chases away all walking creatures within proximity. This fury, research has found, is fuelled by the fear of having its little one killed by these beings. If knocking dead any threat is the only way of getting them out of sight, the new mother-to-be will do so with a smile.

For this reason, all rangers kept a distance as the mother of three made history at 3pm last Thursday, and so did the other rhinos. To their surprise, Donna telepathically invited the company of Augusto, one of the 17 rhinos living in the Savannah sanctuary.

Not only that, she allowed him pat the junior on the back, a gesture used by rhinos to welcome new ones into the world. Thrilled by the surprise, the 6 year old bull couldn’t help it join Donna in cheering the little one to make his first steps. As the former hummed aloud, the latter attempted to get the minor on his feet using her long horn.  

To their dismay, their cheering did not do any wonders. Thinking her calls had fallen on deaf ears; Dona started whispering soft sounds of encouragement while gently stroking him.

Fifteen minutes later, there was no positive response. Something was wrong. The minor had deformed hind legs. This weakness couldn’t allow him support his 40-50 kilogram body weight without struggling.

 

Afraid for the worst, Angie Genade, the Executive Director of the Nakasongola based wildlife reserve immediately sent for a team of veterinary experts to come and access the problem.

According to Lieutenant Opio Raymond, a Senior Game Ranger; the doctors who routinely attend to rhinos every fortnight weren’t available at the time of birth as it came as surprise.

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Rhinos grazing at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Photo by Solomon Oleny

“Nobody had a clue Donna had been heavy with child because rhinos usually give birth at the age of 6, not four. That aside, her physic has never bulged out of proportion, a sign very common in expectant rhinos.” says Opio

David Bakeine a private wildlife consultant suspects that the cause of the problem to be in-breeding.  Asked about this possibility, Genade ruled out any likelihood.

She bases her certainty on the fact that Donna, just like the other 16 rhinos in the sanctuary are monitored 24/7 by rangers.

These rangers document every detail of their lives.

‘’Nothing about in breeding appears on the fact sheet of Dona’s diary, and neither does it appear on that of any other rhino under their watch.” Confirms Genade who also doubles as Executive Director of Rhino Fun Uganda

She further adds that should the worst come to the worst; a minor surgery will be performed to heal the minor of its state.

Once back on his feet, a naming ceremony of the rhino will be held. In the philosophy of rhino conservation, interested sponsors will bid names. At the end of the day, he who has bided the highest amount will be given the honour of giving it a positive name he pleases. Funds generated from the exercise will be given to Ziwa to help in its sustainability.

At the start of this year, the 11th rhino to be born at the sanctuary was named after former UWA executive director Moses Mapesa (RIP) and Johan Genade (RIP) husband of Ziwa Executive.

According to Mudukoyi Augustine, the Kisahili name which translates as Pillar is in honour of the two fallen heroes for their pivotal roles in the establishment of Ziwa in 2005.