A lot has happened since our last update which was sent on April 20th. We sadly said goodbye to Berry White, our expert rhino whisperer, who returned home to the UK. Three of the northern whites were given access to the breeding area. And most importantly, this week, we decided to separate the two females in order to give them a better chance at breeding.
On Wednesday, April 21st, after the fence was completed and the six southern white rhinos settled into the new 700 acres area, it was Sudan, Najin & Fatu’s day to be shown the way. The girls were coaxed out early afternoon by the boma staff. Najin was first to go through and Fatu, slightly wearier, followed shortly after her mother. They headed down the open plain towards the longer grass and acacia trees. They were followed by the keepers and stayed out all night – accompanied by an armed team. The Ol Pejeta staff were able to witness them spending a few hours with four of the southern white rhinos.
On the first day, Sudan came out briefly in the afternoon but was slightly spooked and ran back to the safety of the bomas. He was braver and more curious the following day, after being enticed to come through the gate, he spent all day and night out and was seen right down the far end of the breeding area.
The rhinos were still brought back to the bomas after they spent nights out, to make sure they can get a big feed and so that our staff can check for tick load. It was obvious that first week that they enjoy their new found freedom and at times were even hesitant to come back to the bomas. But with some gentle persuasion from the rhino keepers, all three eventually came back to their original homes.
After having initially enjoyed the first few days out, the rhinos started to show signs of preferring to spend time around the bomas. It became increasingly difficult for our staff to get them to go into the breeding area. It also became clear that there were not enough interactions between the males and the females and that Najin was continuing to be extremely protective of her daughter, Fatu. We decided it was time to separate the girls.
On Monday, May 3rd, Fatu was put in the farthest corner of the bomas and Najin was released in the 400 x 400 area. It was a bit difficult for about 30 minutes and Fatu showed some signs of anxiety, but she recovered very quickly. Najin and Fatu are not allowed any contacts, physical or visual, in order to make sure they start showing interest in the males. Najin is still in the 400 x 400 enclosure and has refused to go into the breeding area, but without contacts with the other animals in the bomas, and with food, we are convinced she will get there soon.
Sudan is now in the breeding area permanently and he is doing really well. He is being monitored very closely and provided a big feed daily, in the afternoon. Once Najin moves into the breeding area, this will become their permanent home, along with the southern whites.
On Thursday, May 6th, Suni and Fatu were also given time together alone, for the first time. There were no signs of aggression and it was a very encouraging experience for all of us. We will continue to give them time together.
This process is not going as quickly as we would have hoped, but it might have been naive of us to think it might have happened quicker. The bomas have become their home and the rhinos feel safe there. It will take a bit of time to get them used to their new environment.
Berry White, our resident rhino whisperer for the last 5 months, left Ol Pejeta this week. She will be missed by all but has left the rhinos in the capable hands of Mohammed, Esikon, Jeremy, David and Jimmy – our dedicated boma staff.