This is the first in my series of images which will be offered for sales as signed, mounted, limited edition, fine art prints, with all profits going to The Aspinall Foundation and The Wildlife Heritage Foundation. All these images are 20×16″ including the mount, and are £120 each including postage within the UK.
I went along to find out about rhinos, and to get to know the crash at Howletts.
I met with rhino keeper, Helen, who has been looking after the rhinos for over 10 years. She is pictured below with Damara & Kasungu.
Black rhinos are critically endangered, which means they are at high risk of extinction. As I mentioned in my previous blog post on conservation, their number has dramatically reduced, from about 100,000 post-war to only around 3,500 today. This is a devastating loss, and wildlife foundations are working hard to reverse the decline in their numbers.
The Aspinall Foundation has the largest herd (or crash as it it correctly termed) of breeding black rhino in the UK between its two parks, Howletts & Port Lympne. Breeding in captivity is vital to help prevent this amazing animal from becoming extinct, and the oestrous cycle of the animals is carefully monitored by faecal testing of hormone levels. A rhino is sexually mature by around 7 or 8 years old and will come into oestrous roughly every 28 – 30 days. At this time, the male will be introduced to the female in the hopes that nature will take its course and the pitter patter of tiny rhino feet will follow.
There are currently 4 black rhinos at Howletts; one mature bull called Zambezi, 2 mature females, Damara and Salome, and baby boy, Kasungu, who can been seen sticking close to his mother Damara’s side at all times. They all have distinct characters and personalities, and Helen told me a bit about each one as she showed me round the rhino house.
Salome has just celebrated her 16th birthday, and she has been at Howletts for the past 10 years. She loves people and is the most amazing and gentle rhino, who is very affectionate towards people. I was lucky enough to get to meet her properly, and give her a rub. She came up to the fence and presented herself with her leg sticking out, to expose the spot she loves having rubbed. She couldn’t enough of the attention, and even relaxed so much that she lay down to enjoy a chilled out rub. It reminded me of a puppy rolling over to have it’s tummy tickled. It was an amazing experience meeting her. She was covered in mud, but the skin on her mouth, behind her ears and in her favourite rubbing spot is really soft. I feel blessed to have been allowed to touch such a magnificent creature. Below are a couple of images, one of me meeting Salome and another of her extending her leg to have a nice rub, while Helen rubs her favourite spot.
After recent activities in the paddock with Zambezi, it is hoped that Salome is pregnant. So keeping everything crossed that she will have her long awaited calf and become a mother for the first time at the end of September.
Zambezi is the bull, and father to baby Kasungu. He is very laid back and is a real gentleman. He loves the lady rhinos, and misses them when he is in a separate paddock. When he is in the same paddock, he is very gentle and gives them space. He can be a bit stubborn, as he knows his own mind, so doesn’t always like to comply when he has to go indoors for the night. If Salome is pregnant, and as Damara has a calf to look after, it will be a few years before either of Zambezi’s ladies would be interested in him again, so he would likely be moved down the road to Port Lympne, where he can enjoy the company of their lady rhinos.
Damara was born in 2005 at Port Lympne. She is mum to baby Kasungu. She prefers rhino company to humans, and is a little highly strung, so will charge when agitated. She is managing very well as a mum and looking after Kasungu, and she is teaching him how to be a rhino.
Kasungu was born on 1 October 2015. He is a very playful little rhino, and is just like his mum, Damara. He copies everything she does, and can often be seen running around the paddock copying every move she makes. He likes to wallow in the mud with his mum, and he has recently started some playful sparing with her. He will be very dependant on Damara for the next 2 to 3 years, and she will not be willing to put up with male rhino attention until he becomes an independent bull and no longer needs her.
The Rhino House
The rhinos have a choice of paddocks during the day and are taken indoors overnight. If it is too cold, then Kasungu stays indoors, so it might not always be possible to see him. The rhino house is separated, so each rhino has 2 adjoining “bedrooms”, so they have plenty of space indoors. The floor of each section is heated on one side and unheated on the other, giving the rhino a choice of the warmer or cooler side, depending on how they are feeling. There is CCTV monitoring Damara & Kasungu, and this allowed the keepers to keep an eye on her as she gave birth to Kasungu. She was left alone to give birth naturally, with keepers monitoring her via the camera feed, and with a vet on standby, just in case they were needed. Thankfully, Damara managed fine with no human intervention, and she continues to be a good mum to Kasungu
If you would like to see these amazing animals for yourself, a visit to Howletts or Port Lympne is a fantastic family day out, and you will be helping to save wildlife through the purchase of your entrance ticket. A variety of tickets are on offer, so have a look at the websites to see which suits you best.
The foundation is grateful for any donations received, so please see their website if you wish to make a donation.
The purchase of the above image will help to fund wildlife conservation, please have a look at the fundraising images in the Extinction is Forever Shop. Thank you.
Please remember that it is our responsibility, living on this planet, to educate future generations and to help ensure that the animals that exist today are still here for tomorrow.