A black rhino and her young calf have made a remarkable recovery after being hit by a burst of automatic gunfire in Zimbabwe.
A burst of automatic gunfire was heard in the Save Valley Conservancy's Lowveld one recent late afternoon. The International Rhino Foundation's anti-poaching patrols were rapidly deployed to the area and began tracking a black rhino cow and calf that had fled the site of the shooting.
The cow appeared to be dragging her hind legs and was leaving a trail of blood, indicating that she had been badly wounded. From the location and the shape of their tracks, the injured animals were identified as ‘Double' and her 16-month-old calf ‘Trouble'.
Double's horn had been fitted with a radio-transmitter, so trackers were able to quickly locate the pair the next day using radio-telemetry equipment. Both rhinos had sustained gunshot wounds and required urgent medical attention.
A vet immobilised the rhinos, finding seven AK-47 bullet holes in Double and a further one in Trouble's front knee. Fortunately, all the bullets had missed vital organs. Antibiotics and vitamins were given to both rhinos to help fight infection and aid recovery. Since Double and Trouble could walk well enough to find food and water, and since the mother could be tracked electronically, the team decided to leave the pair in the field and closely monitor their recovery.
The first tracking effort found Double moving well and feeding, but alone and fears for Trouble escalated. But after three weeks, Trouble turned up walking well but thinner for the stress of being separated from his mother and his unintended early weaning - black rhino calves suckle milk until they are 20 months old.
Trouble remains in the general area of his mother and hopes are high that the two will find each other again, as black rhino cows and their weaned calves often do. Both have made remarkable recoveries and have not needed further treatment.
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