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When a 6-month-old black rhino lost his mother to natural causes, he became vulnerable to poachers and predators. Thanks to the determination of his rescuers, he was saved and now he has grown to form an adorable bond with his keepers.
Apollo, now 4, spends his days taking long mud baths, napping beneath his favorite tree, and luxuriating in back scratches while he waits until he’s old enough to be released safely back into the wild.
Apollo’s journey with Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) began back in September 2019, when a team based in Nairobi, was carrying out an aerial patrol of old poachers’ hideouts along with SWT’s Canine Unit.
Helicopter pilot Andy Payne received an emergency call from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) notifying him that the senior warden of Tsavo West National Park urgently needed assistance in rescuing a calf that had been spotted standing next to its dead mom, a well-known black rhino named Amoy.
The rescue team had to work quickly since they worried that the calf would be disturbed and flee too far away from his mother.
“What followed was a nail-biting race through Tsavo West as the wily calf gave us the run around for several miles,” SWT wrote in a Facebook post. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of many, working on the ground and in the air, we were finally able to rescue little Apollo.”
The calf was brought to SWT’s Kaluku Neonate Nursery in a helicopter, where the trust’s most experienced keepers, were waiting for him.
Apollo was given a number of injections including a tranquilizer as his stress levels were “extreme.”
“He did begin to calm down and very soon was suckling on a bottle of rehydration fluids which he certainly needed after the huge distances he had run,” the trust said.
Needless to say, the first night was a restless one for all those concerned about the orphaned rhino. However, by the second day, Apollo allowed his keepers to rub his tummy with a broom—a “time-tested trick” used to win rhinos over.
“They took their time building his trust,” a representative of SWT told The Epoch Times, “and he soon embraced his new family.”
Not long after, Apollo was following his keepers around, enjoying slurping on his bottle, and relishing his specially created mud baths.
While there are other animal orphans at Kaluku, including elephants, giraffes, antelopes, and other small creatures, Apollo prefers to follow his own schedule each day in the company of his keepers.
“Unlike elephants, who live in a herd-based society, black rhinos are more solitary by nature. He tends to march to his own drum,” an SWT representative told The Epoch Times. “This mirrors what his life will be like in the wild—only without the keepers of course!”
While there are many keepers who help to care for Apollo, he shares a very strong bond with two in particular, Justus and King’oo, who both specialize in caring for orphaned rhinos.
As he grows older, he is acquiring two of the strongest rhino traits: reserve and stubbornness.
Meanwhile, Apollo’s favorite activities include enjoying a long mud bath and taking naps beneath his favorite baobab tree.
“He also has a special rock that he scratches on every morning,” the SWT representative said.
On his fourth birthday, Apollo enjoyed a leisurely mud bath and scratches from his keepers.
As for what the future holds for Apollo, SWT states that he will be reintegrated back into the wild black rhino populations of Tsavo.
“This is a gradual process, as rhinos are very territorial and a new member must be introduced slowly especially a new male,” the representative said.
SWT, which is best known for raising and rescuing elephant and rhino orphans, has successfully raised 17 orphaned rhinos. Solio, who was raised at their Nairobi Nursery is now living wild as a mother of two, recently visited the nursery with her baby and older calf in tow.
The non-profit is incredibly grateful to all those involved in dedicating their time to saving little Apollo.
“Every rhino life is precious, particularly when you consider the fact that just over 900 black rhinos remain in Kenya,” SWT said in a Facebook post.