A motion-detecting camera trap in Tsavo National Park, Kenya, has captured distressing images of a rhino calf with a deep snare wound around his neck, initiating a park-wide search for the injured animal.
Rangers in the area know this particular rhino very well.
Last year, poachers shot and killed the calf’s mother and took her horns. During the onslaught, the young rhino also sustained a bullet to the neck but somehow escaped into the night.
“We were sure that the bullet wound would kill the calf,” said Jeremy Goss, of the Kenya-based Big Life Foundation. “But In the end he survived.”
He was named Bahati, meaning “good luck” in Swahili.
“Since then,” Goss said, “we’ve watched him grow up via images caught on camera traps—from his initial recovery from the bullet wound to his stumbling attempts to form social bonds with other rhinos.”
But on September 14, one of the same camera traps turned up images of Bahati with a poacher’s snare embedded deep in his neck. These snares are designed to kill rhinos. They’re made from a thick cable that must have pulled tight around Bahati’s neck as he moved through.
After what must have been a terrible and painful struggle, he broke free from the snare.
“It’s a testament to the character of this rhino that he was able to get free,” Goss said. “But now he’s roaming the bush with a deep snare wound, and if we don’t find him in time to remove the snare and treat the wound, Bahati will die.”
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was quick to react to the news, and rangers from both KWS and Big Life flooded the area, searching relentlessly.
But the bush is dense in the area where Bahati is expected to be, and as yet there have been no sightings.
The search for Bahati continues today.
“It’s heartening to see so many from different organizations coordinating the search,” Goss said.
“It might take days, or it might take weeks. There’s no telling what the outcome will be, but no ranger on the job will rest until we’ve found Bahati.
“This little rhino deserves every bit of help we can give him.”
Update 20 September: Sad news. After a slow tracking process (very difficult in the dense bush and lava rock) the team got close enough to see Bahati in thick bush. They immediately called the DSWT helicopter and a spotter plane got airborne as well. Bahati ran, but the vet managed to get a dart into him. Bahati went down, but the wound and its effects were too much for him and he never recovered from the anaesthetic. Bahati joins his mother now; may they rest in peace. Lala salama, little Bahati.
Update 19 Sept, 2015: Once again, the rangers spent the day on the trail of Bahati. Later in the afternoon, the team found tracks and dung from the morning, as well as evidence of feeding. This is a good sign and it shows Bahati is moving and eating. The team hopes to continue following tracks on Sunday.
Update 18 Sept, 2015: Unfortunately, Bahati will spend another night with the snare around his neck. But the search team came close today, when they found fresh tracks of the rhino late in the afternoon. The rangers have narrowed down the search area and will have a fixed starting point from which to track tomorrow morning, when the whole process starts again.
Editor’s Note: We will post updates on the progress of the search for Bahati. Please lend your support for Bahati by sharing and following the story using the hashtag #FindBahati.