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LOWVELD RHINO TRUST

Mabuya the Great

19 December 2015

Mabuya (meaning “come here” for her aggressive charging character ever since her calf was killed by poachers in 2009) has survived four attempts on her life. In addition to the attack when her calf was killed in 2009 she had suffered two previous attacks when she was living in Gourlay’s Ranch north of Bulawayo. When she was captured for translocation to Bubye Valley Conservancy in 2005 she had both a nasty scar on her neck from a previous heavy duty snare and an AK round embedded in her front horn.

Last year Mabuya was attacked by poachers again – this time shot in the head and left essentially blind in both eyes. Fortunately this time her calf was found alive and well – even showing a bit of her mother’s fighting spirit by chasing the rhino monitors round and round a tree (young rhinos would usually run away).

Mabuya was held in bomas on both Bubye Valley and then Malilangwe where there were larger, more appropriate pens available. She received daily eye-drop treatment for many months in the hope that her eyesight would recover. After eight months there was no sight recovery – though she did appear to have a small amount of light perception ability through a small range. Because black rhinos are incredibly habitual animals and their primary senses are actually smell and sound it was decided that Mabuya should be given a chance to try and make it back in the wild.

Mabuya horn with AK

AK round found in Mabuya’s horn while drilling to fit a radio transmitter.

Chonalanga

Chonalanga was completely blind for three years before he was shot by poachers in Bubiana Conservancy

She would not be the first blind black rhino to live wild – the Lowveld Rhino Trust has previously monitored two completely blind black rhino bulls. These bulls lived for years blind – it was poachers that were their demise eventually. Mabuya would be different though – these bulls had an advantage in that they went blind in an area they had been living in for years so they already knew well where their sources of water where and were familiar with all the other rhinos living in the area. Mabuya would have to learn all this from scratch.

Mabuya has been living wild for seven months now. She had some initial challenges but her fighting spirit overcame these and she has established a home range just like any other black rhino would. She has located all the water-sources within her new home and has chosen some of the best habitat available as her core area. To the casual observer you would actually be hard pressed to determine that she was even blind, she moves from bush to bush with casual ease while feeding – most likely smelling the various plants around her.

1-Mabuya Acacia

Mabuya browsing on acacia – one of her favourite plants

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