[Title courtesy of Willie – who thought it sounded better than “How Hannah found her Peanut again – maybe . . .”!]
One of the things I love about blogging, is that I sometimes get comments or emails from people who have a personal connection to one of my stories. Recently, Hannah wrote to me saying that she thought she might have been the person who raised Peanut – the rhino who is now Hercules’ mate. [If you are new to this blog and don’t know the back-story read this post first.] This is not just another story of a person raising a baby rhino, it’s an unusual love story too. Hannah and I have exchanged several emails, so I’ll quote from her comments and emails and let her tell the story . . .
In her original comment, Hannah said
I was absolutely stunned to stumble across this blog this afternoon – please tell me more about Peanut and where she is from… My husband and I raised a rhino calf we named Peanut over a year ago. We had to take her into captivity when she was already 6 months old but she was so tiny compared to another calf of a similar age and my husband, the ecologist on the reserve at the time, decided to take her in and hand rear her – her Mother was 38 years old (very old for a rhino) and it was thought she was not producing enough milk. When the vet arrived to help us dart the tiny calf, he said she was the size of a 6 WEEK old. The following months involved intense hard work, building of bomas, day and night feeding of milk and eventually luscerne, cleaning, keeping warm, walking with the calf in the veld . . . And after all the love and care that went into her rearing, the rhino was sold to another reserve. Since then we have never heard any news of our baby Peanut or where she ended up. Please let me know if you have any information about Peanut’s history, where she came from etc. It would be wonderful to hear how she is doing. I am so excited at the idea of our Peanut having a mate, especially a hero called Hercules. I look forward to hearing from you.
After comparing notes with Cecile (the lady who raised Hercules, Peanut’s new mate), it seems that this is the same Peanut which Hannah and Darius raised. As we corresponded more of their story emerged . . .
Darius and Hannah were both working at the Mabula Wildlife Reserve when they took in Peanut.
Darius and I met at Mabula in February 2010. I came over from UK to study FGASA [Field Guide Association of Southern Africa course] because I had a few months with nothing planned and was desperate to learn more about the bush, and I had spent a lot of time at Mabula on holiday previously. Darius being the ecologist there got to do the course for free, and there we met. I had so many plans to go home and continue studying and travel the world, but never quite got around to it . . . Instead I fell in love, got engaged, and became the mother of a rhino!
Darius named Peanut as soon as he saw her – he said she was the smallest new-born white rhino he had ever seen, and the name just sort of stuck. We didn’t realise anyone else would ever learn her name!
Three or four months later Darius asked me if I would be the mother of a rhino calf who wasn’t going to make it in the wild. Of course I thought this was a wonderfully exciting prospect and I had NO idea of how difficult it was all going to be. So I became a full-time Mum to a ‘tiny’ animal who was twice my size! Darius proposed to me just two weeks later and so the wedding preparations began, all while spending every moment with the rhino.We also got a sheep friend to keep Peanut company – we named the old lady ‘Sultana’ and tragically she had to be put down after a couple of months because Peanut broke her leg. Just like Hercules, Peanut had no idea of her brute force and strength. Before that however, Sultana had a lamb. We gave the lamb ‘Raisin’ to the farmer who originally donated the sheep who was shocked – he thought she was far too old and past it! The owner of Mabula realised how valuable Peanut now was, being a ‘tame’ rhino, and thought it was more worth his while selling her than setting her free on the reserve. All we ever heard was that she was going to be released with a young male and it was hoped he would protect her. We were under the impression he was older than her – certainly not the tiny thing Hercules was in the photos you published! But either way, we hoped she would be set free one day somewhere safe from poaching. Her mother died about a year ago now, she was within months of being 40 years old and she had 7 calves in her lifetime so she did her bit for rhino conservation! Peanut’s official name was 7.7 (the 7th calf of cow 7, who we called ‘Ouma’).So that is the story of our once little ‘Fruit and Nut’ Family! It was an amazing time, and I can’t believe how lucky I was to be a part of it. Darius’ work fascinated me, he would take me along to supplement the rhino, buffalo and elephant, we would release caracal on the reserve, animal dartings from lion to buffalo, annual game counts – it was just so exciting for me! I became a bush girl in no time, and I’ve never looked back. Being in the hospitality industry it has just worked out perfectly for both of us, being able to work together in such a wonderful environment, every single day.
Hannah and Darius now work at the Ubizane Wildlife Reserve (a 1200 hectare reserve with two lodges) in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Their lives there sound so interesting, that I’ve invited Hannah to be a guest blogger on Notes from Africa and to share her bush stories with us.Thank you to Hannah Mellet for sharing this wonderful story and photographs with me!