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Baby rhino recovers after being shot at by poachers who killed her mum



‘Princess Pumpkin’ was nursed back to health in Zimbabwe (Picture: SWNS)

A young black rhino left injured by poachers who slaughtered her mother has been nursed back to health. 

‘Princess’ Pumpkin was gunned down aged around 16 months by hunters with a heavy calibre rifle in Zimbabwe – but has now made a full recovery.

She was found limping in the bush of the Bubye Valley Conservancy by members of the Lowveld Rhino Trust (LRT) on routine patrol, who described Pumpkin’s wounds as ‘quite severe’. 

The International Rhino Foundation’s (IRF) Natasha Anderson explained: ‘This little girl had enough personality and the fight for three rhinos. Although she was obviously scared without her mother and in considerable pain, the LRT team increasingly became more confident that she would recover from her bullet wounds because she was displaying what a fighter she was.’

The severity of her wounds was initially unclear before helpers flew in a vet from the capital Harare to assess her leg. 

And after six weeks of care she was released back into the wild, where the LRT hope she may continue a fledgling romance with a wild male rhino called Rocky, another orphan.

Staff explained that during her care they spent hours by her side making comforting rhino noises, to help combat loneliness – and were amused by her personality. 

Ms Anderson explained: ‘She became known as “Princess Pumpkin” due to her very fussy eating habits and the hilarious mini tantrums she would throw if anything was off schedule.’

Pumpkin was about 16 months old when she was injured (Picture: SWNS)

Staff noticed that a favourite antic was throwing her her food bowl, made from an old rear tractor tire, upside down so that she could eat her favourite items at the bottom first.

Initially the team had been forced to immobilise Pumpkin — who was given the name because it sounded soothing — in order to assess and treat her wounds – which were described as ‘quite severe.’

After being treated with antibiotics, she was then taken to specially constructed rhino bomas to continue her care and recover in safety away from lions and hyenas.

Food was given to her twice a day food was brought to provide a stable routine, helped by secret night visits from Rocky.

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Staff said that in the mornings they noticed his tracks where he had been circling her enclosure.

A few days after Pumpkin was released staff found her tracks with Rocky’s.

Ms Anderson said: ‘It’s likely they will join up and live together, both finding the company they craved at last since tragically losing their mothers to poaching.’

IRF recently released in its State of the Rhino report which said that in Africa, there was a small increase in the black rhino population from 5,500 in 2019 to 5,630.

But the species remains critically endangered and at a fraction of the 65,000 population level in 1970.

Only about 2,300 remained in the early 1990s, and the population is forecasted to continue to make small gains.

In Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley, a 13.8% population growth was reported during the first six months of 2020.

Nina Fascione, IRF’s executive director, said: ‘Rhinos in Africa are dependent on protection and monitoring personnel for their continued safety.

‘LRT’s monitoring program is crucial. If you don’t know exactly how many rhinos are out there, it’s impossible to determine the level of poaching or its impact on protection efforts.’

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