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SOS Rhino : In the News : Reserve staff save rhino from muddy death

Reserve staff save rhino from muddy death

  August 20 2003 at 05:26AM

Staff from the Pongola game reserve heaved and groaned for nearly seven hours to rescue a rhino which got stuck in a prison of mud this week.

Rangers believe the exhausted white rhino cow had been stuck for at least three days as a result of the drought gripping northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Eventually, said game reserve manager John Hishin, two tractors had to haul the animal from the sticky black sludge of the Pongola River.

Hishin said the drought had dried up several rivers and dams and numerous animals were dying after wading into mud holes to slake their thirst.

Early on Monday, Mvubu Game Lodge manager Trent Sinclair and field guide Arno du Preez heard strange snuffling sounds emanating from a dried-up marsh close to where the river flows into Jozini Dam.

They spotted a large horn protruding from the mud.

Early attempts to rescue the animal were fruitless, and Pongola wildlife vet Heinz Kohrs and game capture fundi Grant Tracy were called in to help.

Kohrs tranquilised the animal, while hundreds of litres of water were poured around the animal to soften the ground.

Several hours later the rhino was finally freed.

Sadly, said Hishin, the cow had a two-month-old calf which died just hours after its mother was freed.

"We think it got progressively weaker from lack of food after its mother got stuck," he said.

Hishin said rangers also came across the carcass of an impala and helped to free a reedbuck close by.

In places, animals were walking several hundred metres through dried-up pans and river beds, only to get stuck in the sticky mud sediments next to the last patches of surface water.