What a handsome fellow!

Some of you may remember Hercules, the 100 kg baby featured on this blog last September. He was being hand-reared because of initial health problems and the fear that he would not make it out in the wild. At the time he was drinking 4 litres of milk (calf’s milk formula with supplements) 4 times a day – and gaining 1kg a day!

Hercules being fed his calf milk formula. ©WMB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

He also had a little sheep friend in his enclosure keeping him company.

Hercules with his buddy Brutus, the sheep. ©Anna-Marie Retief

Estie (my sister-in-law and one of my guest bloggers) recently visited the game farm where Hercules lives and sent me an update on his progress, as well as some photos to show how he’s grown.

In the last six months he’s been growing steadily and his health has continued to improve. He now weighs around 300 kg. So he still has a way to go to adulthood, but he is already developing that “loose skin” look that you see on adult rhinos. Hercules has been moved to a beautiful new boma (enclosure), but alas his friend Brutus could not join him there. He’s just become too big and rough to play with the sheep.

Hercules in his new digs. ©Estie/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Hercules, with his view of the bushveld. He's grown a lot, but he's still nowhere near adult size. ©Estie/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

As Estie remarked, those loose folds of skin make him look like a puppy. ©Estie/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Hercules' horn up close. Hard to believe that this is what causes hundreds of rhinos to be killed by poachers each year. ©Estie/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

From Wikipedia

Rhinoceros horns, unlike those of other horned mammals, consist of keratin only and lack a bony core, such as bovine horns. Rhinoceros horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, and for dagger handles in Yemen and Oman. Esmond Bradley Martin has reported on the trade for dagger handles in Yemen.

One repeated misconception is that rhinoceros horn in powdered form is used as an aphrodisiac in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Cornu Rhinoceri Asiatici (犀角). It is, in fact, prescribed for fevers and convulsions. Neither have been proven by evidence-based medicine. Discussions with TCM practitioners to reduce its use have met with mixed results since some TCM doctors see rhinoceros horn as a life-saving medicine of better quality than substitutes. China has signed the CITES treaty however, and removed rhinoceros horn from the Chinese medicine pharmacopoeia, administered by the Ministry of Health, in 1993. In 2011 in the United Kingdom, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine issued a formal statement condemning the use of rhinoceros horn. A growing number of TCM educators have also spoken out against the practice. To prevent poaching, in certain areas, rhinos have been tranquilized and their horns removed. Armed park rangers, particularly in South Africa, are also working on the front lines to combat poaching, sometimes killing poachers who are caught in the act. A recent spike in rhino killings has made conservationists concerned about the future of rhino species. During 2011 448 rhino were killed for their horn in South African alone. The horn is incredibly valuable: an average sized horn can bring in much as a quarter of a million dollars in Vietnam and many rhino range States have stockpiles of rhino horn. Still, poaching is hitting record levels due to demands from China and Vietnam.

The inevitable result of being hand-reared, is that Hercules is now too used to and friendly towards people. Estie said that Hercules’ current owners will be trading him, so that he can go in live in a suitable facility with other white rhinos. I would guess returning him to the wilds, given his trusting nature and the current threat of poaching, would not be wise.

Thank you to Estie for providing an update and photographs of Hercules!


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Nature/Environment, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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21 Comments on “What a handsome fellow!”

  1. April 18, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    I loved reading this update, Lisa. You hadn’t blogged for a while, so I hope that you were okay; I am pleased that you are back.

    Indeed, Hercules looks most impressive – 300kg?! Gosh, I’d guess that’s a couple of more kilos than his digsmate Brutus would weigh. The poaching problem is so out of hand, it is heartbreaking to think of all the rhinos that are being slaughtered so brutally and senselessly. I hope Hercules will be safe.

    • April 19, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Hi Reggie! I’ve been going through a difficult period health-wise, so haven’t felt up to writing posts. But hopefully I’ll be posting more regularly in future.

      Yes, I also hope that Hercules will continue to be safe. The rhino poaching is heart-breaking – not just their deaths, but how they are killed. I wonder if this will stop before it’s too late?

    • April 19, 2012 at 9:20 am #

      By the way, I was amazed at the speed with which you responded to my post! I had barely published it and there was a comment from you. So grateful to have my regular readers put up with my long absence.

      • April 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

        Oh, absolutely, I completely understand about not feeling well enough to write, and am just glad that you are feeling better. It is always wonderful to read your posts, but no pressure! 🙂

      • May 10, 2012 at 7:13 am #

        Hi Reggie! Not fully back yet – as you have gathered, but am spending more time at my computer. As I said to Kathy, I feel guilty about falling behind with my blog reading/commenting too. Must still comment on your US trip.

  2. GeoRoMancer
    April 18, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Hi Lis,

    Glad to see you’re blogging away again …

    I’m in ‘mad editing mode’ this morning, so I couldn’t resist: “One repeated misconception is that rhinoceros horn in powdered form is used as an aphrodisiac in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)” – the Wikipedia entry starts off with a misleading sentence: the misconception is not that the horn is used in TCM; the misconception is that it has any medicinal effect …

    Go rhinos!

    • April 19, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Hi there! Yes, hopefully I’ll be posting more regularly from now on. This was the first week in months where I felt like my old self again. It’s cooling down nicely here – the mornings are even quite chilly.

      Ha yes, I think that Wikipedia could do with your editing skills. Suppose that most people don’t read that carefully though.

  3. April 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks to both you and Estie for this update. Sorry he had to separated from his sheep buddy. Hope you have been feeling okay, my friend!

    • April 19, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathy! Nice to know my “old” readers are still following my blog. 🙂 And congrats again on being Freshly Pressed!

  4. April 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    It’s quite funny to know that a sheep can be a good companion for a rhino. I hope Brutus (and other rhinos) can grow healthily and bring the population of rhinos back to healthy level.

    • April 19, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      Thanks for leaving a comment! 🙂 The sheep companion was suggested by the veterinary surgeons who initially treated Hercules. They had to keep him away from other rhinos because he had injuries and was quite weak at that stage.

      Yes, I also hope that we are able to stop the poaching and reverse the rhino population decline.

  5. April 18, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Thanks for the update. He looks like an amazing creature.

    • April 19, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      Hi Lisa! Nice to have you read and comment. He is an amazing creature. And handsome too, don’t you think?! 😉

  6. April 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    i remember that original photo. Thank you for bringing us along on this interesting story. Lovely…er…handsome fellow/baby your Hercules with the smooth folds of his skin.

    • April 19, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks for your comment Georgette! 🙂 We need more rhino stories with a happy ending.

  7. April 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks for the update. What a cute little rhino! (Never thought I would say that.)

  8. April 19, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    I’m both sad and relived that Brutus is no longer sharing Hercules’ enclosure!
    It’s great to see him doing so well and growing rapidly – 1kg a day!!?? Wow!
    Yesterday, on Jacaranda Radio they held a charity event at Monte Casino, raising awareness and money to train dogs to track down poachers. It still means that rhinos aren’t protected up front, but perhaps if the poachers know they will be found then they might think twice? It’s shocking to hear that 137 rhinos have been killed in the Kruger Park alone since the start of the year.
    Glad to see you back and blogging 🙂

    • May 10, 2012 at 7:12 am #

      Hi Lu! As you can see my blogging is still erratic. It must be really difficult to catch poachers before they kill, but as you say if the penalties are high enough . . . It is good that public awareness about rhino poaching has increased. With public and business donations etc the game rangers will hopefully be given the tools to catch poachers more easily.

  9. April 19, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    relieved, even

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