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Rhino takes first steps back to wild

Johannesburg - Phila the black rhino arrived at the Johannesburg Zoo in the full glare of the media. But when she was returned to the bush, it was under armed guard and before daybreak.

The female black rhino that survived at least nine bullets and two poaching attacks was moved from the Johannesburg Zoo to an undisclosed location on Tuesday morning.

SURVIVOR: Phila survived two poaching attempts and is now ready for the wild. Picture: Jennifer Bruce. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

She will be spending some time in a boma to get used to life in the wild again.

The operation on Tuesday was so secret that only a few of the staff knew about it, and the move was made before the zoo opened.

“There was heightened security at the zoo, because of the high incidence of poaching, and there were guards protecting her,” said the zoo’s vet, Dr Katja Koppel.

To move the 1.5-ton rhino, Phila first had to be sedated, then she was walked into the game-capture truck, guided by ropes. A carer who Phila had grown attached to, travelled with her to her new home.

“She is the only person that Phila allows to scratch behind her ears and rub her nose,” said Koppel. - The Star

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