For the love of Lolli


Written by Yolande van der Merwe

Photographs supplied by The Rhino Orphanage

Rhino calf Mofalodi – nicknamed Lolli – was first seen sitting lonely and bewildered beside her mother’s body in the Pilanesburg National Park. Tragically, she had become another victim of poachers. A rhino calf like Lolli doesn’t stand much chance of survival without its mother.

Unfortunately, before she could be helped, the frightened calf ran away and disappeared into the bush.

A wild rhino chase

Various rescue teams kept searching for her, knowing that she was in great peril on her own in the bush. But to no avail. The vulnerable rhino calf was nowhere to be seen.

Two days later, in the late afternoon, she was spotted again – about 7km from her dead mother; and once again she ran away before the team could catch her. Another two days later, she somehow found her way back to her mother’s body. The rescue team was contacted, but when they tried to capture her, the terrified calf made a run for it once more, covering another 5km before being successfully captured. 

Five kilometres is a very long distance, and a very risky situation indeed for a five-month-old rhino calf as the reserve has several large predators, including lion and hyena, which could easily take down a rhino that small. 

A lost little soul

She was brought to us at The Rhino Orphanage and we named her Mafolodi – Setswana for “survivor”. Lolli was very stressed in the beginning and kept walking around in circles, even when she was blindfolded to minimise her stress. (The orphanage uses blindfolds and earplugs to minimise outside stimuli and, in so doing, reduce the stress experienced by these traumatised orphans.)

She was also dehydrated and weak but didn’t want anything to drink. It took 10 very long hours to try and get her onto milk, during which she was fed and rehydrated intravenously. We tried to keep her as calm as possible until she was stronger. 

When we removed the blindfold, we expected all the rage and fear that a wild animal could possibly harbour after such a traumatic event. But, instead, we found only a lost little soul that just wanted anything warm and with a pulse to stay close to for comfort. 

A friend in need

Lolli adapted well to her new home, growing stronger and more confident by the day. First, she trusted her carers enough to venture outside, and then began exploring larger areas. But she must have longed for company of her own age.

Then, just over two weeks after Lolli’s arrival, we were phoned again: this time, a six-week-old rhino calf had been left orphaned, also by poachers, also left by her mother’s side. In the early hours of the morning, the team set out to fetch the calf. She went through the same things Lolli did, from being darted and taken to the orphanage to being blindfolded and encouraged to take milk. Once she was strong enough, the newbie was introduced to Lolli.

The orphaned rhinos have become the best of friends. They went out for a bushwalk together with their carers and had a wonderful time, and Lottie learned how to graze by copying Lolli. It seems like Charlotte sees Lolli as her big sister and copies everything she does. They do everything together, including all the naughty things.  

Find out more about Mafalodi, Lottie and their friends on Saving the Pilanesberg Rhinos’ Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Savingthepilanesbergrhinos/