By Amelia Meyer
Rhinoceroses may be taken from their wild habitat to a place of captivity and rehabilitation for a number of important reasons. Some are badly injured by other competitive rhinos or wild animals, some are shot by hunters but not killed, others become ill and require medical assistance, while still others may be orphaned. Because of the dwindling numbers of this precious species, rehabilitation is an essential part of preserving the rhino populations of the world.
Rehabilitation of wild animals is conducted with the express purpose of releasing them back into the wild once they have recovered.
An even worse situation is when the mother is killed during her pregnancy and the calf is born prematurely, rescued from her womb by rangers before the blood flow has ceased. These baby rhinos then need to be raised in such a way that they are taught to survive on their own in the wild.
Usually, a rhino will nurse for the first 18 months and stay with its mother for up to three years, making this a long-term project which, when left to human rangers (as opposed to the natural mother), becomes an enormous challenge. These animals should not be tamed, since this will mean them not being able to go back into the wild, but depending on human carers for the rest of their lives.
During the rehabilitation process, medical treatment is often urgently needed for gunshot wounds and severe facial injury from where the horn was removed, often savagely. Rehabilitation is then about giving the animal a safe place in which it can recover in peace and without the constant need to search for food and water, avoid other aggressive rhinos or flee from poachers.
Successfully rehabilitating a rhinoceros requires the time, resources and expertise of a team of qualified, experienced people. These include a veterinary surgeon, animal welfare, conservation staff and, usually, a complement of security personnel. This all takes money and extensive training;resources that are often simply not available.
Once a rhino has been deemed to be fully rehabilitated, it will be released back into the wild. Even then, the project is not over. These animals need to be monitored closely to confirm that they are, in fact, ready to survive on their own and that they do not encounter unforeseen problems because of a premature release.
The long-term nature of rehabilitating one rhinoceros and all of the resources required are no small matters, and require the support and funding of the public as well as of the government organisations.