Durban - Nine months after being found “crying inconsolably” for his mother after she had been killed for her horn, baby rhino Gertjie rang in his first birthday last week.
Believed to have been born on February 19, the rhino was three months old when he was found in Kapama Private Game Reserve in May. Gertjie has been in the care of Limpopo Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre.
The Daily News reported at the time that the animal was taken to the rehabilitation facility, so he could be rehydrated and calmed after the trauma. Staff members had taken turns sharing his boma, in an effort to help him sleep.
A video posted by the centre of Gertjie and his companion, Lammie the sheep, frolicking and playing went viral last year and was reposted by several news outlets, including Africa Geographic and the Daily Mail on their websites.
It was posted again on Friday by eco-chic website One Green Planet, based in California, to commemorate the rhino’s first birthday.
The video has had almost 2 million views on YouTube since its release in October by assistant curator Karien Smit.
Wishing the baby rhino best wishes, the organisation posted this message on its Facebook page on Thursday: “While your circumstances have been tragic, you have blessed each and every one of us with your presence.”
Gertjie has become a “big brother” to another rescued rhino named Matimba.
The assistant centre manager, Karen Swiegers, said Gertjie was becoming more and more independent from humans and they did not want to risk interrupting his routine by doing something different to celebrate the big day.
“Since bonding with Matimba, Gertjie has viewed humans as a third party and barely seeks to interact with us as he used to do in the past. Most of his babysitters are now slightly wary of him, primarily due to his size, but also because he is becoming less tolerant of humans in general (his primary caretakers aside). This is very positive behaviour, and proves that he will not simply approach anybody for a ‘hug and a kiss’,” said Swiegers.
“Although both rhinos prefer each other’s company, they never neglect (the sheep), which is always close by – grazing or catching up to the playful duo with a prance.”
The centre’s blog said that Gertjie now weighed more than 550kg, while Matimba weighs 150kg.
“Gertjie currently drinks a total of 16.5 litres of milk over three feeds per day, while Matimba drinks a staggering 21 litres over six feeds per day. Gertjie is already eating grass throughout the day, which is why he drinks less milk than Matimba,” the blog posts reads.