Rachele Stoppoloni: babysitting a rhino calf

The Sounds of Moholoholo

The early morning starts with the excited laugh of two spotted hyenas named Shadow and Shade; within minutes the epic roars of the lion Big Boy can be heard across Moholoholo and finally Chui the leopard’s coughs are heard…

These are the sounds of the bush; frequent sounds of Moholoholo that we all love to hear. Early morning and late afternoon was spent doing rounds and each group of students has designated animals to look after. Among my groups care was a timid wood owl named Winston; Emma and Scruffball the 2 feisty servals (Scruffball proved to be the feistiest); a young caracal named May; 2 white headed vultures; 2 fish eagles and a shy civet named Babe.

As a student at Moholoholo the day never seems to stop. My days were filled with many animals and my responsibility along with others was to make sure that these animals were well fed, that their enclosures were clean and that they were looked after. We assisted with many activities such as hippo captures, leopard captures, tending to ill and injured birds, baby sitting a 10 month old black rhino named Landela (which means “the follower”) or spending time with a young cheetah named Bullet.

“The bellow of these beasts were very loud and almost terrifying!”

One of my favourite nights at Moholoholo was one that lasted till 03h30 in the morning! This was the night of the Hippo capture. 7 adult hippos had to be relocated to another reserve; the first 5 hippos went into the truck with minimal trouble. However the last and apparently the biggest two refused to go into the truck, (I cannot fully explain just how large these 2 were… but some perspective; when they walked past me they easily reached my shoulder with their backs).The bellows of these beasts were very loud and almost terrifying.This stubbornness lasted for hours until eventually they succumbed and went into the truck. As long as this night was, it was incredibly exciting and an amazing experience!

One activity that has to be mentioned was babysitting Landela. An incredible young black rhino that was rescued from a mud wallow in Kruger National Park where she had gotten stuck and her mother had abandoned her after 3 days. As Dela was so young she still needed the companionship of others and during the day we were given shifts to look after her and keep her company. During this time I was lucky enough to gain her trust. Often during the heat of the day I would sit down and she would walk over to me and lie down alongside me, and also allowing me to rest against her.

I spent two weeks volunteering at Moholoholo and in this time I had some amazing experiences with Africa’s wildlife. And for this I would like to thank Brian Jones and his wonderful staff at Moholoholo for affording these experiences. Working so closely with the animals gave a new appreciation for them and made me more proud to be South African. It is also amazing to be a part of such an important place that helps protect and save South Africa’s natural heritage… Our wildlife.