Dog nurses injured baby zebra back to health

2015-04-13 18:56
Shungu with Eli. (

Shungu with Eli. (

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Harare - A tiny zebra, which was nearly killed by two adults in his herd in Zimbabwe, has been nursed back to health by a devoted dog called Eli.

Shungu the zebra, whose name means guts or spirit in the local Shona language, still had his umbilical cord attached when he was viciously set upon by two young stallions in Selous, central Zimbabwe, early last month.

They bit his neck, threw him eight feet high in the air and kicked him in the eye, clearly intent on killing him, says Simon Herring of Pamuzinda Safari Lodge. Scouts from the lodge rescued the foal and took him back to the lodge where Eli, a 22-month old male pointer cross unexpectedly decided the foal was his responsibility.

Eli licked Shungu's wounds, slept with him and wouldn't leave his side for three weeks, says Herring, Pamuzinda's hospitality manager.

"Another boxer was interested [in Shungu] and tried to go near him," Herring told News24. "But Shungu didn't like the boxer and Eli kept him away."

Eli's owner, Kylie Kloppers, says the dog has never shown any mothering instinct before.

Herring believes that Shungu was so young that his mother "had not had time to move him" away from the herd, which meant he was at risk from males trying to take over. When a stallion takes over a herd of zebra, he will often kill foals in an attempt to remove alien genes and cut down on competition for mares.

In this case, two stallions teamed up. The result for Shungu was nearly fatal.

'Eli showed extreme concern'

"The stallions went for him in the neck," Herring said. "He got hammered. There was absolutely no doubt they were trying to kill him."

"When Shungu was brought in he was unable to stand, and Eli immediately went and lay with him," he added. "Eli growled at the other dogs, and also showed extreme concern when humans approached or touched Shungu."

Herring says that the first 48 hours after Shungu's rescue were critical. "We gave him 40% [survival chance] mainly because of the battering to his head.

"Once he was standing, after two days, we gave him 70%. Only when he stopped drooping his head, after about a week, were we certain that he would make it, provided we could combat infection. He was on fairly strong antibiotics," he said.

Shungu is around two months old now and almost totally recovered. He stays in the lodge stables and has been drinking skimmed milk mixed with glucose.

But when he and Eli get together "they are old buddies", Herring said.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  conservation

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