On the March 2, 2012, three rhinos were poached in the most brutal and horrific manner at Kariega Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, adding yet another statistic to the increasing number of these magnificent animals being so senselessly slaughtered for their horns. The difference between this attack and others was the indomitable spirit of a female rhino called Thandi, a veterinarian who refused to give in to what appeared to be the inevitable, and the management of Kariega Reserve who were so passionate about their rhinos.
Through the herculean efforts of veterinarian Dr William Fowlds and his team, they managed to save two of the rhinos, Thandi and Themba. A mere 24 days later, Themba tragically drowned in a nearby dam. Dr Fowlds and the rescue team were devastated by the loss. Thandi, however, continued to respond to the unstinting efforts of Dr Fowlds’ medical team, gaining confidence and health with each day. Three years had elapsed when, on January 13, 2015, Thandi gave birth to a female calf, which was named Thembi, meaning hope in the Xhosa language. What an apt name it has proved to be. This virtually unknown duo has, overnight, become a household name. Alan Weyer, General Manager of Kariega Reserve, maintains that despite the criticism levelled at the reserve, his policy of openness with the media has helped to educate a worldwide audience.
In an interview, Dr Fowlds said they had witnessed a miracle evolve through the seemingly impossible odds of Thandi surviving such a brutal attack and being able to take her pregnancy to full term, resulting in the birth of her feisty calf, Thembi. ‘Hope’ is certainly the operative word where rhino are concerned. Thandi has been an inspiration to all involved, so much so that Angie Goody, a volunteer, who witnessed Thandi’s entire painful journey, has given up her farming career on the Isle of Man to devote her time to being the self-appointed godmother and PA to Thandi, and the media consultant and fundraiser at Kariega for the plight and preservation of the rhino.
Video courtesy of Kariega and Adrian Steirn.