Each day another dead rhino is added to the poaching statistic, but not the lost orphaned rhino calves, Vusi was lost but not forgotten by Lorinda Hern.
Lorinda Hern and I have been friends for some time now. We first connected back in 2012 when she boldly spoke out about the heartbreaking death of Spencer the rhino. This past week Lorinda made this sad, yet heartwarming tribute to Vusi one of the lost orphaned rhino calves we rarely hear about.
For all the lost orphaned rhino calves – a tribute to Vusi
Six years on, I still cannot speak about this little rhino without wanting to cry. Vusi was one of the first rhino poaching orphans I ever cared for and his story was particularly heartbreaking. His mother had been killed by poachers in the Kruger National Park, leaving the terrified three-month old calf alone to fend for himself. Rangers only found him a week later, by which time he was severely dehydrated and had gone completely blind from the trauma he’d suffered.
I have seen some rhinos endure unspeakable horrors at the hands of humans, and survive – by sheer force of will and resilience beyond comprehension. By the same token, I have also seen rhinos that have had their spirit broken. Although physically capable of survival, they “give up” mentally. I spent two weeks willing Vusi to make it: when he would drop his head in puddles of mud, I would wrestle it into my lap. When he stopped eating, I resorted to tube feeding. When he would lie outside in torrential rain, I sewed him a rhino-sized “rain coat”. But in my heart I knew. I knew he was just holding on because I was begging him to.
So, one evening as I sat with Vusi, stroking his ears, I whispered to him: “Thank you for staying for so long. I know you miss your mommy. If you want to go and be with her, I’ll understand. It’s okay.” Later that night, as though all he needed was permission to let go, Vusi died.
His death wasn’t recorded as part of that year’s poaching statistics, because he died with his one tiny horn intact. To the authorities, Vusi and other poaching orphans like him are nothing more than “collateral damage” in the war against poaching. To me, they are one of the only reasons I keep going on those days I really, really want to give up.
Thank you Lorinda, please never quit!