It's a Calf! Baby Born to Rhino Who Miraculously Survived Poaching Attack

The mother is still missing her horn, but there’s one more rhinoceros in the world.

Thandi and her calf. (Photo: Courtesy Kariega Game Reserve)

Jan 15, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Thandi, a white rhino, was left for dead in 2012. Her horn had been cut out from her face—a gruesome yet typical practice of poachers in South Africa, who killed more than 1,000 rhinos in 2014 alone.

But Thandi’s attackers underestimated her. Now, after years of rehabilitation and multiple surgeries to fix her face, the rhino that refused to become a statistic gave birth to a healthy calf Tuesday morning.

"I am sure that the whole rhino-caring community will share in the joy of this amazing birth," said William Fowlds, a wildlife veterinarian who performed multiple skin grafts on Thandi.

Two rangers at South Africa’s Kariega Game Reserve were the first to see the baby rhino—from afar—which appears to be healthy.

“It is incredible that the rhino we found so close to death nearly three years ago is now the mother of a beautiful calf,” Kariega general manager Alan Weyer said in statement.

Fowlds discovered that Thandi was in the first trimester of a pregnancy in December 2013. (A rhino’s gestation period is between 15 and 16 months.)

With her baby tucked by her side, Thandi is taking a break from the limelight—the area where she and her calf reside will remain off-limits to visitors for the time being. But that doesn’t make her any less of a star.

Her story caught the attention of international basketball superstar and wildlife conservationist Yao Ming, who narrated a video to help raise awareness of rhino poaching in China—where 70 percent of illegal ivory is sold.

“They cut off her face just to get her horn,” Ming says in the video. “But Thandi survived. Never buy any products made from rhino horn, because when the buying stops, the killing stops.”

In the big picture, Thandi’s calf is a lone bright spot in the species’ rapid decline. Rhino poaching is still at an all-time high in South Africa, and elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of 35,000 per year.

“Thandi's story has captivated the world since she became a beacon of hope in the fight against rhino poaching,” wildlife photographer Adrian Steirn said in a statement.