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Sisters: Mbizhi and Chewore

sisters -- September 1997

In this 1997 photo, Mbizhi is about 3 months old, and her sister Chewore about 3 1/2 years old. You can see Mbizhi on the inside of the fence, and Chewore on the outside. This picture was taken not long after Chewore's release into the wild, after being raised by humans at Tashinga. Unfortunately, Chewore was so used to humans that she came back to the camp to try to be close to humans. This was a problem, as it took away her ability to live on her own.

There are lessons to be learned here regarding the succesful release of hand-raised rhinos into the wild. For example, a method of more gradual release should be practised, as well as utilization of a release location far enough away from the hand-rearing location that the rhino cannot return to the site. Also, while caring for baby rhinos, it is essential to note that human foods such as oranges, mangoes, and crackers (all fed to Chewore on various occassions by visitors) are to be strictly prohibited. Common sense dictates that if a rhino never discovers these junk foods, he/she will never know what he/she is missing and will never crave for them after release.

Chewore was eventually taken many miles away from Tashinga camp, and she is still there, doing fine. She wears a radio collar and is tracked on a regular basis by the Tashinga ecologist and scouts.

So, did Mbizhi and Chewore ever become friends? The two sisters did have a few encounters, and it is unknown whether they knew that they were related. They were not given the opportunity to become friends, however. It is important to note that black rhinos are solitary animals, and it is uncommon for them to be seen with other rhinos in the wild. The only exceptions to this are high rhino density in a small area (rare in the wild, since rhinos are endangered) and a mother and child. Because of space and manpower constraints, the black rhinos at Tashinga are raised together. When they are released into the wild, they will again be solitary.

Chewore was the first rhino ever hand-raised at Tashinga. Her story will help design and plan future hand-rearing efforts of black rhinos at Tashinga and other rehabilitation centers. Since the hand-rearing and release of black rhinos is still relatively new, trial-and-error is a necessary part of the research, until the most effective means are realized and proven to be successful.

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