A rhino that survived an attack by poachers in the Eastern Cape has fallen pregnant, the Kariega Game Reserve, outside Port Elizabeth, said on Monday.
The pregnancy of the rhino, named Thandi, came as people remembered former president Mandela, a man of hope, said the reserve's general manager Alan Weyer.
"As a nation and as individuals, we will forever be inspired by his strength and courage in the fight for what is right," he said.
Weyer said the pregnancy was a small step towards winning the fight against poaching, but that the reserve remembered Mandela's words when he said: "It always seems impossible until it's done." The rhino survived an attack in which two bulls died at the reserve on March 2 last year.
Poachers tranquillised all three rhino with darts, and hacked off their horns, leaving them to bleed to death.
One of the bulls died in the course of the night, but the other two were found alive and treated by wildlife veterinarian Dr William Fowlds.
"Their strength and courage prompted our rangers to name the surviving bull Themba and the cow Thandi – the isiXhosa words meaning hope and love respectively," Fowlds said.
The bull later died. At the time of the attack, poachers administered an overdose of anaesthetic that resulted in Themba collapsing onto his back leg, cutting off the blood supply, causing tissue death and a serious infection.
The cow's wounds reopened this year in a suspected attack by a rhino bull, and had to be operated on.
"Her story has touched the lives of so many people across the globe and her courage is reflected in our love for her and the species that she represents.
The prospects of a successful pregnancy and birth represent the hope of survival," said Fowlds.
"In a crisis which threatens us with despair, that hope, as insignificant as it may seem for some, is what we cling to for dear life," he said.
After the poaching attack, a new bull was purchased for breeding on the reserve.
"We were very pleased when the new bull and Thandi were spotted mating by some of the rangers, and have had our fingers crossed for the best possible outcome.
News of Thandi's pregnancy was incredible and a real miracle if the tests are correct," said Kariega co-owner Graeme Rushmere.
He said a calf would be a real reward for the cow's courage and everyone's efforts to save her.
"We hope that she is able to lead a normal and peaceful rhino life after her horrific ordeal.
She has been an amazing ambassador for rhino and for the many dedicated people fighting the war to end rhino poaching.
We are simply delighted," said Rushmere. – Sapa