World Rhino Day – Remembering Lunar (sit down to read this story).

LUNAR MY LOVE 2011-2018

A dedication to a very special rhino from Petronel Niewoudt the Founder of Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary NPC South Africa

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned rhino for 20 years. It is not a job to me but a calling, and I feel blessed to be able to dedicate my life to the survival of these mega herbivores.

I am indebted to the amazing team of committed professionals who share my dream and to those who have shared their knowledge with me so that we can make that dream a reality.

There is one individual however who has been the greatest gift of all in this long journey and so, I would like to dedicate World Rhino Day 2018 to her.

Her name was Lunar, and she was an exceptional rhino.

Lunar arrived at Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary on the Lunar Eclipse of 15 June 2011. In the first few hours of her arriving her 4-month-old heart stopped three times and every time it did, I fought and prayed with everything I held inside of me to bring her back. She wanted to live, and I needed her too.

Lunar’s rehabilitation was a long one and because of her condition we had to spend a lot of time together. I know that to spend every day in the company of a rhino sounds like a dream come true, but my objective has always been to remove human contact from the rhinos we rescue as soon as possible. Lunar was different, and she had her own agenda. What was I to do when the rhino whose life I had saved multiple times decided that I was her person and what’s more, she had a lot to teach me.

I stuck to my beliefs that she would do better in the company of her own species and soon enough Lunar fell in love with a stunning young bull named Storm. After many years of bottle feeds, baby ailments and teaching me the “rhino language” Lunar along with Storm and some other rhinos were released into the protection zone to live wild. It was my greatest hope that Lunar and Storm would produce a baby of their own one day, but this was not to be part of Lunar’s journey.

Lunar passed away after a short illness on the 31st January 2018. She left as she arrived, on a Lunar Eclipse.

Her loss was devastating to me, so much so that I had to mourn her loss away from my beloved sanctuary. Much of the days that followed her passing are a blur so deep was my grief. I spent my time thinking about her and all of the lessons she had taught me. I remembered her as a weak and helpless baby. I remembered her journey from the intensive care unit, to the juvenile bomas and finally her time as a magnificent rhino cow chewing on the grass with her beloved Storm always close to her side. Lunar, despite her traumatic start lived a purposeful life and through knowing her my team and I have been able anticipate the needs of the many rhinos who arrived after her, and since her passing.

Even in death I continued to learn from her. She was the matriarch of the group that were living in the wild and her absence caused confusion amongst them. I learned that undeniably they feel grief from the loss of a family member in the same way that the babies feel the grief from losing their mothers. I watched as they regrouped and formed new smaller groups. It was Storm I watched over the most. He really struggled with losing her, returning each night to the exact spot where she had died to sleep. I was very worried about him for some time, but I am at peace now because he has found new love with a lovely young rhino named Timbi.

Since Lunars passing we have rescued far too many rhinos but we will keep on rescuing them because the world would be a very sad place without them. I only hope that this generation and the generations that come after will fight for their survival too.

Every time another little one arrives I know that I am treating them using many of the lessons my beautiful Lunar taught me.

I find comfort in the moon after which she was named, and I know that my life is all the better for having known her. I will be eternally grateful to her for teaching me the secret language of the rhino.