Sometimes life throws two souls together at the right place and time, forming a lasting friendship, an unexplainable bond. That’s the story of Gertje and Matimba, the two orphan rhinos at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre.
These boys have both endured the trauma of losing their mothers to poachers in the beginning of their young lives. Gertje (also known as Little G) made headlines, as he pulled heartstrings. Found crying inconsolably next to his dead mother, he was brought to HESC over a year ago, bonding with his caretakers, as he was too heartbroken and afraid to even sleep alone.
Gertje was paired up with a sheep to provide companionship. With his own webcam, viewers could tune in to watch the two of them in his boma, as he slept, or more often; restlessly paced about.
Little G, Gertje, being consoled by his caretaker soon after his arrival. photo: HESC
About 9 months ago little Matimba was rescued; he and his dead mother were found covered in mud, indicating at his young age of less than a month old, he had likely just enjoyed his first mudbath minutes before the poaching.
Matimba, at just weeks old, when he first arrived in the centre. photo: HESC
In December of 2014, the two were introduced. Initially Gertje was less than enthusiastic; unsure what to make of this miniature replica of himself. It took him a couple of hours to become assured that the little bundle of energy wasn’t a threat, and as caretaker, Anri said only a couple of days “to completely accept each other”.
According to Anri, as the boys grow older, their natural instincts will kick in and they will grow less affectionate towards each other. Adult bulls are generally solitary and associate only with females in oestrus.
Regardless of what the future holds, their bond at the moment is deep and vital to their growth. In a perfect world, rhinos remain with their moms for 2-3 years before venturing out on their own. Their relationship is unusual and may not replace the nurture of “mom”, but it brings a bit of solace in an otherwise horrible circumstance.
Gertje and Matimba enjoying their newly flattened termite mound. photo: HESC
*Fight for Rhinos is looking forward to our first visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in September. If you have any questions for the rhino caretakers on Gertje or Matimba, please email us at email@example.com. We’ll gladly find out.