Apollo’s March Update

Mar 23, 2021

Black rhinos have two horns, which continue to grow throughout their life. The size and shape of the horns vary by individual, but typically, males have thicker horns, while females have longer and thinner ones. (Interestingly, the same generalization applies to male and female elephants and their tusks). When we rescued Apollo as a six-month-old calf, his horns were little more than stubs. Now, on the cusp of his second birthday, he is growing into a rather formidable fellow, with impressive horns and an equally impressive stature. Of course, Apollo has lots of growing left to do, but it is easy to forget that when looking upon him!

It has been very warm and dry in Tsavo, which sends all the wildlife into a bit of a stupor. Apollo is no exception, and he spent much of the month cooling off in the mud bath. It is quite a sight to see this ritual unfold. He makes a beeline for it after his mid-morning milk bottle, knowing exactly what’s in store. The Keepers find him reclined in the mud, waiting expectantly for them. As soon as they begin to coat his body in mud, he falls into a total trance, moving only to proffer his tummy and back and sturdy legs for their spa treatment. While Apollo is more than capable of coating himself at this point, he enjoys the indulgence all the same.

After spending some time in a muddy, blissful daze, Apollo leaps back to his feet and hustles off to the next activity. In these moments, everyone must be on their guard, because he is positively exploding with energy. For a good half hour, he gallops through the bush, spinning on his heels to circle back towards the Keepers before sprinting off again. He loves when they run after him, leaving everyone huffing and puffing by the end of the activity.

Black rhinos are built for browsing rather than grazing. This is evidenced by their hooked upper lip, which is purpose-made for plucking leaves. Apollo has become an expert in this respect, efficiently snacking on the tasty vegetation he finds in his daily travels. These usually take him down the sandy beaches along the Athi River, then through sandy luggas shaded by acacia and tamarind trees. While he remains very much still milk-dependent, Apollo has a very hearty appetite for greens and can’t resist stopping to snack every few steps.

For Apollo, every day is a mix of new discoveries and beloved routines. By 5 o’clock, he is ready to call it a night and trots back to the Kaluku compound. By this point, Bristle the ostrich, Rukinga and Tunga the oryxes, Susu the eland, and Mkubwa the buffalo are also preparing for bed. Everyone is brought into their cozy stables while the Keepers prepare their evening milk bottles. Apollo is by far the most impatient in this respect, and pokes his head over his stable door, squeaking loudly lest the Keepers forget how eager he is to be fed! This is one of our many reminders that, while Apollo increasingly looks and behaves like a big rhino, he is still very much a baby.