Caring for Nicky, the blind baby rhino

2012-12-19 08:44
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The story of a blind baby rhino

Nicky, the black rhino, was born blind. But thanks to great people at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the little boy is doing just fine. Take a look at these adorable pics.

This story was originally posted on National Geographic's blog by Marcus and Kate Westberg, a Swedish-Australian freelance writer/photographer team with a passion for Africa and its wildlife. They just completed a year in Kenya's Masai Mara where they conducted a research project on wildlife tourism and community-based conservation, including working on projects such as Elephant Voices and Living with Lions. They came across Nicky the little blind rhino while on safari in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. Check out their blog, Life Through a Lens or like their Facebook page.

Nicky is just like any other baby rhino. He likes to play and is curious about the world around him. Only the world doesn't look the same to this little black rhino because he was born blind.

With his lack of vision, Nicky is particularly vulnerable and at risk from predators in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

To keep him safe from harm, Nicky has been living at the family home of Mike Watson, Lewa's CEO, since he was one month old. He has his own boma (enclosure) with a padded play area and a straw-lined room for sleeping. His best animal friend is a yellow Labrador, one of the Watsons' family dogs.

The Watson family and two experienced handlers, Yusuf and Tonga, care for Nicky around-the-clock. He is never left alone for a minute and there is always someone on hand to look after his needs and show him the way. He spends his days running around, taking afternoon naps and wallowing in his mud bath.

When we arrived, Nicky was sound asleep under his blanket, tucked in tightly just the way he likes it. It wasn't long before he woke up, stretched his short legs and began bounding around, occasionally banging into things. Nothing seems to dampen his playful spirit, except for the rain. He really doesn't like getting wet.

During our stay, the downpour was the least of Mike's worries when poachers killed four rhinos on the conservancy. This tragic loss served as a reminder of the importance of hand-raising Nicky in a secure environment. Already, he is acting as an ambassador for black rhinos in the fight for the survival of his species.

By early next year, Mike and the Lewa staff are hoping to raise enough funds to fly in a specialist to perform cataract surgery to restore Nicky's eyesight. In these troubling times, when the life of every rhino counts, it was heart-warming to witness the care and compassion shown for this blind baby rhino.

Here are 10 facts about Nicky posted by Marcus and Kate on the Africa Geographic blog:

1. Nicky was named by a generous sponsor.

2. His birthday is (approximately) 25 August 2012, making him four months old this Christmas.

3. He has lived at the home of Mike Watson (Lewa's CEO) and his family since he was one month old. He has his own enclosure, with thickly padded walls so he can play all day, and a smaller room for sleeping.

4. He really doesn't like the rain.

5. His best friend is a yellow labrador, one of the Watson's family dogs - although Nicky is beginning to outgrow his companion.

6. His blindness is most likely caused by congenital cataracts. This is not an irreversible condition, which is why Lewa staff are hopeful that his surgery will be successful.

7. It is too risky to keep him with his mother, as there is a high potential that he will get lost and wander into danger. At this young age he is vulnerable to attacks from lions in particular, but could also injure himself if he accidentally steps into a burrow or slips in the mud.

8. He has two experienced minders, Yusuf and Tonga, and is cared for around-the-clock. One of the things they are currently spending time doing is showing him the kind of leaves he should be eating.

9. His daily routine includes eating, playing, lots of running around and afternoon mud baths. He likes to sleep through the night, but if he gets hungry, cold or scared he wakes his minder by squealing, jumping on him and generally throwing a bit of a fuss. The same thing happens if his blanket falls off during the night.

10. It costs Lewa an average of $1,265 per month to pay for Nicky's day-to-day care, veterinary costs and salaries for his keepers. Looking after a baby rhino is not cheap but saving one is priceless.
A last word from Lewa...."During this sad time Nicky serves as a happy reminder of why we must continue to do everything we can to protect these magnificent animals. Lewa would like to send a big

Please help support Nicky and share in the hope for his species that this blind baby rhino stands for.
For more information about Nicky and Lewa's Rhino Conservation Program go to Lewa's website.

To help raise funds Lewa has launched a CrowdRise campaign for Nicky and the other rhinos on the conservancy.

Read more on:    animals  |  travel international

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