Rhino ranger (82) takes big step to recovery with new hip

2012-02-27 00:00

AFTER undergoing a hip replacement, octogenarian game ranger Philemon Ndlovu has taken his first steps to becoming active again in the campaign to conserve rhino.

Medi-Clinic Hospital spokesperson Reshnee Beekrum said it was “remarkable” that Ndlovu (82) was walking so soon after the operation.

The hospital agreed to help with the costs of the surgery, performed by a leading Pietermaritzburg orthopaedic surgeon, as part of its corporate social investment and responsibility programme.

Ndlovu has always had a close connection with the highly threatened rhino.

He became involved in conservation when he was in his 20s, when he helped build a perimeter fence around Swaziland’s Mkhaya Game Reserve, where he is still employed.

Over the years he has developed a loving connection with 15 of the rhino and is able to distinguish between black and white rhino just by looking at their footprints. He has named a number of the ­rhino that he tends.

“They are very close to me. I love them,” he said, adding that the recent poaching of rhino across southern Africa made him sad.

After many years’ service with Swaziland’s Big Game Parks group, Ndlovu developed a serious hip problem, which resulted in a dislocation.

He does not qualify for medical assistance in South Africa because he is a citizen of Swaziland.

Swaziland’s record at rhino security has been unmatched in Africa. Until June last year the kingdom had not lost a single rhino to poaching in 20 years.

“I would like to thank all who came to my assistance and I am eager to continue with my work and sharing my knowledge and skills with my trainees,” Ndlovu said from his hospital bed.

• jonathan.faurie@witness.co.za

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