Less than 5 Kilometers from where the equator cuts across the heart of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the most playful, sweet and curious baby rhino you will ever meet. His name is Ringo. Contrary to what we may want to imagine, in the Rhinos’ world, there is no space for “cute”. It’s a knotty existence made even more complicated by the fact that poachers hack their way through their numbers and have left a handful of rhinos where hundreds of thousands lived.
Ringo was born with a severe health complications, and either the mother knew he would not survive or she lost hope of the sons’ recovery. She opted to walk away and left him in the middle of the world, deathly sick, cold and lonely. In place of his mother’s security, touch and warm milk, he awaited nothing but the hungry embrace of a lion or hyena’s jaw
His luck, however, turned when Ol Pejeta Conservancy Rangers who had been keeping an eye on his pregnant mother found him and took him to the resident vet. Dr. Steven Ngulu. From his observation, it was clear why his mother left. Among other things, Ringos’ urinary tract was severely affected by a birth deformity and he was peeing through his still bleeding umbilical cord. It was a grim case and the doctor had no illusion about the little boy rhino’s chances. However, with the aid of a team of dedicated rangers, the good vet treated Ringo, and to the surprise of many who did not even dare to hope, he responded to treatment. What more? He turned out to be a cheerful optimist, playing with his caregivers and lumbering around lazily whenever he could.
Gradually, he improved and he started running around and sticking his tongue out to anyone willing to indulge in his mischief. Today, he is one of the star attractions at the conservancy and he lives up to his reputation. He has grown very close to his caregivers and loves taking walks and sometimes playing football with them. If you are visiting the conservancy, he is happy to chase you around his enclosure and give your pants a thorough licking when you let him catch you (You have to let kids win or you are simply a terrible person).
While mature Rhinos do not have many natural predators, lone young rhinos are vulnerable and almost guaranteed death from big cats. Ringo may not have the mother to teach him survival techniques but he will grow with the security of his caregivers and the rangers. With the presence of a predator proof boma at the conservancy, Ringo has a chance to live freely in the wild and have a normal life once he is all grown and probably join other wild rhinos that live in the boma. One thing for sure is his mom may not recognize him, but if she could she would be so proud of her little boy. If ever in the neighborhood, Ringo will be glad to see you.
Story By. Ian Mungai & Mercy Waithira