Survived poachers’ attack in 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe––For nearly a decade the baby black rhino Tatenda was an internationally known symbol of hope for Zimbabwean wildlife and for black rhinos as a species, but no more.
“It is with great sadness that we have to report that our beloved Tatenda has passed away,” e-mailed Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force founder Johnny Rodrigues on October 4, 2016.
“It’s terrible news. We are not sure yet how he died,” Rodrigues added. “A post mortem is being done so I should know soon. I will update everyone as soon as I know.”
“Poachers in camouflage uniform”
Tatenda’s mother and two other baby black rhinos were orphaned at the Imre Safari Ranch on November 7, 2007, when “Four armed poachers dressed in camouflage uniform assaulted and tied up the rhino guards and opened fire on the three mother rhinos in their pens,” Rodrigues reported at the time.
While Imre Safari Ranch owners John and Judy Travers “undertook bottle-feeding Tatenda, then just six weeks old, Janie Style of Buffalo Range bottle-fed Carla and Lisa Marie,” the other two baby rhinos, “each six months old. Carla’s mother was shot and killed, Rodrigues wrote, “and little Carla was shot through her shoulders and chopped on her face with a panga (machete). Lisa Marie was caught in a snare and almost lost her back foot.”
Donations of milk powder
Rodrigues’ appeals brought repeated donations of urgently needed milk powder from the Clover Milk company of South Africa and other South Africans. Some donors personally delivered their contributions, also including nipples and medications, as far as Bulawayo. Rodrigues took the supplies the rest of the way to the rhinos. More often, Rodrigues had to drive all the way to Johannesburg and back.
The Travers family and other bottle-feeders, including Rodrigues’ late wife Cheryl, also raised an orphaned hyena and an orphaned warthog during the long effort.
Most importantly, the Tatenda rescue demonstrated to the world that people who care about animals still exist in Zimbabwe, amid a climate of barely restrained poaching and governmentally encouraged “land invasions” by supporters of the Robert Mugabe regime that turned much former wildlife habitat into despoiled deserts, after failed attempts at farming by inexperienced squatters.
Some more recent property takeovers by Mugabe regime insiders have taken an opposite approach, seeking to develop or re-develop wildlife tourism attractions and hunting preserves.
Memories of Tatenda
Tatenda, meanwhile, “turned into a very handsome young man,” Rodrigues recalled. “I would drive to Johannesburg four times a year, when he was a baby, to buy him special milk powder, antibiotics and teats. This little guy was so close to my heart and my family’s. My daughter even made him a rhino birthday cake for his first birthday.
“I remember Judy would sleep in his pen with him and take him on daily mud baths, one of his favorite activities,” Rodrigues added.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank John and Judy Travers for everything they did for him and for all the other animals in their care. I have never seen such love and compassion shown or given to animals as these two give to all their animal family members.
“My dear friend Tatenda,” Rodrigues finished, “rest in peace until we meet again.”