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Trendler, K., 1994. Hand-rearing rhino calves: pp. 162-163

In: Penzhorn, B.L. et al. Proceedings of a symposium on rhinos as game ranch animals. Onderstepoort, Republic of South Africa, 9-10 September 1994: pp. i-iv, 1-242

Location: Africa - Southern Africa - South Africa
Subject: Management
Species: African Rhino Species

Original text on this topic:
Given the current conservation status of both the black and white rhino populations, each and every animal is of importance. Orphaned rhino calves can be hand-reared successfully if managed appropriately - the age-old cliche. 'If you are going to do something, it's worth doing it properly' is particularly appropriate when applied to rearing rhino calves. Cutting corners and costs results in the loss of a valuable animal and wasted expenditure of time, effort and funds. A successfully reared calf is an investment that grows .... and grows...... and grows !
Rearing and nursing wildlife is our speciality and hard-earned experience has produced methods and techniques that can be effectively included in the management techniques of rhinos as game ranch animals.
Put behind you all the preconceptions, bush machismo and cold scientific sense and soppy sentimentality - the successful rearing of a rhino calf requires a sensitive, sensible approach catering to the physical and psychological needs of the rhino calf and its long-term rehabilitation into a breeding population. A brain-washed bunny hugger is the best foster parent. Calves imprint onto a foster mother and require stability and constancy. A back-up handler should be familiar to the calf and routine. A dose of Tender Loving Care and company are prescribed on a regular basis. Handling is very important. A rhino can become dangerous and behavioural maladjustments can be avoided with good handling. Avoid teasing, change in handlers etc.
Rhino calves, to state what is often not always obvious, are babies and not capable of caring for themselves: they cannot adequately control temperature, require regular feeds, security, comfort and mothering !
Diet and feeding: rhino milk is relatively high in lactose and low in fat - a suitable milk replacement formula should mimic the milk. Strict hygiene and careful food preparation techniques must be followed. Bottle feeding is preferred to bucket feeding. Calf teats on a 21 cooldrink bottle are most practical and well accepted. Teeth start erupting around 3-4 weeks. Access to suitable solids will usually encourage the calf to experiment with eating solids. Rhino calves are usually weaned at 18 months.
15% of body weight per day is required to supply nutritional needs. Cereals can be added when volume of milk required to satisfy rhino calf becomes too great for comfort.
Monitoring of temperature, weight, condition etc. is essential - enabling early identification of problems. But techniques of monitoring should be adapted to reduce stress and unneccessary handling and interference. Monitoring of rectal temperature is carried out only during stabilisation and illness - a competent handler can learn to monitor changes in respiration and temperature by feeling the soft skin under the hind leg, twice a day at the same time. Normal rectal temperature is around 37,5?C; normal respiration is 16-30/minute.
Handlers should be equipped to monitor, identify and institute emergency procedures when needed, eg. hypoglycaemia etc.
Exercise, sunlight and security are all important requirements. Regular mud baths and parasite control needed. Do not totally eradicate all ticks as the animal needs to develop a gradual immunity to local diseases. Excessive sterilisation of facilities is not advised, as the calf needs normal exposure to local pathogens in the soil and surroundings in order to build immunity and resistance.
Rearing a rhino calf is a challenge. but can be a rewarding and viable management tool. ARC are always available to assist with practical advice or hands-on rearing. A short 15-minute presentation cannot adequately cover the methods and techniques, but a data bank and reference material is readily available.

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