Our little Apollo is no longer so little! September 21st marked his first rescueversary — a date all involved will always remember. It began with a routine aerial patrol, taking our Canine Unit to investigate old poachers’ hideouts. Their day took a rather dramatic turn when they received reports of an orphaned rhino in Tsavo West National Park, who was standing beside his dead mother. A truly spectacular operation unfolded over the course of several hours, involving two aircraft, several teams, and unfaltering determination to bring the calf to safety. Apollo was only six months old at the time of his rescue, but he still packed a serious punch. It took all the strength of three full-grown men to keep him safely restrained during the 15-minute flight to our Kaluku Field HQ.
Now, Apollo is 19 months old and blossoming into a very handsome rhino. It has been searingly hot in Tsavo this month, so he has been enjoying the slower pace of life this dry season brings. He makes the most of the cool mornings, refreshed from a good night’s sleep and eager to charge around the Kaluku compound. Once the temperatures begin to rise, he makes a beeline for his favorite mud bath — a spot that is also frequented by wild elephants, though never at the same time. This might be Apollo’s preferred time of day. He basks in the cool water, wriggling around as his Keepers apply a protective coat of red mud all over his body, before flopping down in the soft red earth pile for a generous dusting.
After a leisurely wallow, Apollo spends the hottest hours of the day in repose under the shade of the tamarind trees. This is also when the Keepers eat their lunch, which is brought out for them to enjoy along the banks of the Mtito lugga. This tranquil lunch time scene is usually complemented by resident hornbills who have learnt to swoop in to benefit from rice handouts. They hop about, jumping over Apollo, who despite their brazenness remains oblivious so deep is his sleep.
The lull in activity wraps up as the temperature dips to a more comfortable level, at which point Apollo perks right up and does the rounds browsing, before later indulging in a late afternoon burst of energy. Some days, he runs along the luggas, kicking up white sand with every step. Other days, he delights in chasing the guinea fowl that hang around the stockade compound. Whatever strikes his fancy, he plays until bed time. Then, always on time, he escorts his Keepers to his stable, where he takes his fill of water before slurping down an evening bottle of milk. With plenty of cut browse hung in his bedroom he can continue snacking before settling himself under his mattress (this remains his nighttime ritual!) and drifting off to sleep.