Desert Rhino Camp - April 2013

Apr 10, 2013 Desert Rhino Camp
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Weather and Landscape
April was the last month to hope for rain here in the north-west of Namibia – and it has come and gone with no relief from the dry weather.

All we had was an isolated rainstorm in the southern areas of the concession at the beginning of the month. This stimulated rapid grass growth, extensive flowering and fruiting of some bushes in this area. The rest of the area is dry, especially the lower valleys.

Wildlife is quite dispersed at the moment because of the lack of rain. The one area that received a bit of rain in the south has attracted springbok, zebra and gemsbok in their hundreds. The most impressive sight must be the springbok filling the valleys, slopes and mountaintops in their hundreds. Giraffe have also been attracted to the new growth on the trees. Most of the zebra and springbok that we encountered had many young calves and fowls which was quite a treat.

Rhino sightings have been really good this month, as we were very successful with the tracking excursions. Most sightings which we had were of groups of between two to four individuals.

A bull elephant took up residence in the Khoabab area for most of the month which produced some outstanding sightings for our guests. A lioness has also been sighted on a few occasions around the Swart Modder Spring in the Uniab River. The last time we encountered this female we were pleased to see that she had three young cubs with her.

Another highlight for the month was the presence of a clan of hyaena on the southern side of camp during the darkness of night. The hyaena were chasing a dazzle of zebra. Unfortunately none of the guests got to witness the event as all guests in camp were in the northern side of the camp. However, some staff got to witness this. The next morning, guides headed out and found a zebra carcass which had been fed on extensively by the hyaena.

The Save the Rhino trackers have been out patrolling in the less-visited areas and our Chief Game Warden also did several patrols towards the northern parts of the concession.

The overpowering instinct of a mother's love has yet again been demonstrated at Desert Rhino Camp recently. Imagine a mother breaking her back defending her offspring. Guide Nestor and the SRT trackers saw a rhino cow with a calf in the Uniab River. Both were limping. The three-month-old calf had a bite wound in her haunch. It seemed as if the cow and calf had been attacked by lions. Wilderness and SRT staff guarded the rhinos for two nights. Although lion tracks were seen among the rhino tracks at the first sighting, there was no sign of lions in the vicinity of the rhino for the following two nights. That could be an indication that the lions were driven off, injured or even killed by the rhino cow.

On the morning of the third day the cow’s injury had become progressively worse. She was not able to stand on her hind legs. She was dragging her hind quarters.

Dr Mark Jago, the state vet flew in from Okaukuejo. The decision was made to try and rescue the calf. It was darted, removed from her mother and taken to Camp where a small boma was constructed. The cow could not be saved. Close inspection showed no external lion wounds. A post mortem showed haemorrhaging around the lower spinal column. The cow must have injured her back, fighting off the lions.

The calf was kept in the boma overnight. The lion bite on her haunch was very septic and treated by the vet. There she was taught to bottle-feed by Wilderness staff - some of us still have the scars to prove it.

A lion male and some hyaena were attracted by the calf’s calls to its mother during the night, but they did not venture too close.

The next day a crate and trailer arrived from Etosha to take her away to proper care and holding facilities. She made the journey and lived for two days more. She drank milk and showed signs of recovery. Then tragically, she died. The post mortem showed an old fracture on her right front leg. It was her limp that probably attracted the lions in the first place. The fracture, the septic lion bite, the trauma of the attack and the eventual capture and translocation proved too much.

Although lions attacking rhino in the wild is a natural occurrence, the decision to rescue the calf was made because of the endangered nature of black rhino as a species. During the poaching incident over Christmas a black rhino calf was also unnecessarily lost. We thought this could partly make up for that loss.

Thank you to all DRC, SRT and MET staff who assisted with the operation.
Chris Bakkes

Guest Comments
“The camp staff made the stay for us. Everyone in camp was very knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Thank you very much!”

“The bush dinner was incredible and we loved the singing and dancing. Game view was fantastic and the scenery was just breath taking.”

Staff in Camp
Managers: Elfrieda, Rudolf, Erika and Thereza.
Guides: Aloysius, Nestor, Raymond and Johann.

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