A few weeks ago, I met with Tersia from Saving the Survivors and she told me the story of two rhino bulls at a rehabilitation center who had a fight and the one pushed the other over a 6m cliff. (I saw the actual cliff …. and it’s really HIGH). If this wasn’t traumatic enough, our rhino friend fell onto a neighboring farm and the farm owner wasn’t too impressed with a large rhino wanting to play with his cattle.
FYI Saving the survivors is a non-profit organization that treats endangered wildlife that has fallen victim to poaching or traumatic incidents. This qualifies as traumatic and Tersia told me that they were planning on helping the owner get his rhino home. Just to say, this is no simple or inexpensive process. There are multiple permits required, vets, helicopter, the list goes on.
I thought this would be a great opportunity for Blue Velvet Events arrange a truly unique experience for our clients and do good at the same time by donating to Saving the Survivors to cover some of the cost involved.
ROUND ONE – A false start
Everything was set for 23 March. The only problem was that mother nature decided that it was time for a week of torrential rain. Not only could we not get the helicopters up, the mud on the farm made roads impassable.
Because of all the rain we had to wait for the ground to dry out as the trailer would be carrying a large bull and muddy roads weren’t going to work.
ROUND TWO – When a rhino decides he’s not moving
The date was set for 26 April. We hit the road at 4.30am to reach the farm by 7h30ish. Well, all I can tell you is GPS is equipped to deal with city streets, not farm roads so we traversed multiple farms to eventually reach our destination. We eventually stopped for directions when we came across a farm house. Personally, I think we made the farmers wife’s day to have unexpected visitors.
We finally arrive at the facility to be greeted by a tame warthog named Pumba, Leon the owner and the Saving the Survivors team.
After a quick briefing and much excitement building, it’s up with the helicopter to spot our rhino so we can take him home. All this time he had been monitored in open areas with easy accessibility and it was anticipated that this whole exercise would take around 90 minutes.
Our rhino had other ideas….. When they eventually spotted him, he had moved into a difficult area to access. Not only that, there was an inaccessible stream that ultimately needed to be crossed by the trailer carrying a half drugged 2-ton rhino.
The heli tried to encourage him to move across to the other side of the river but he was having none of it. He would get close to the river then turn around and give the heli the horn. Quite literally. He wasn’t crossing the river on his own.
In the truest demonstration of “ ‘n Boer maak a plan” Leon, starts his guys off moving the rocks out of the way and then arranges a TLB from a neighbor that moves the large rocks and levels the bank so that we can get the trailer across relatively easily. It wasn’t exactly a double carriageway, but it would work.
NEXT STEPS – DARTING, LOADING, TRANSPORTING & RELEASING – YEAH RIGHT!
The next step was to dart our rhino, load him up and head home. Again, our rhino friend had other ideas.
The vet managed to dart him from the helicopter and before he dropped, they were encouraging him to move closer to where the trailer was. He clearly has a mind of his own and decided he wanted to head for the stream instead and promptly lay down in the cool water.
This was the point of no return. You cannot get a half-drugged rhino out a stream without the risk of him dropping his head into the water with dire consequences. You cannot wake him up and then re-sedate him either. So, Leon and the vets made the call, for the health and well-being of the rhino, they needed to wake him up completely, so we could get him out of the stream and try another day.
While we didn’t manage to get him home, we had an amazing day up close and personal with real life conservation efforts and a taste of the unpredictable circumstances Saving the Survivors must deal with. We also got to within half a meter of a large rhino bull.
ROUND THREE – hopefully, third time lucky!
Round Three is happening on 30 April, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’ll give you an update next week.
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