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My Rhino Family at Thula Thula

Today, the 22nd of September, is World Rhino Day. Rhinos were the reason I started my conservation journey. The brutal and senseless poaching of rhinos, just for a horn made out of keratin, is what ignited my passion for wildlife conservation. In celebration of world rhino day, I wanted to talk about the amazing rhino family that I have adopted at Thula Thula.


Thabo and Ntombi are probably the most famous of the Thula Thula rhinos, being included in all 3 books: An Elephant Whisperer, The Last Rhinos, and An Elephant In My Kitchen. They came to Thula Thula as orphaned rhino, whose mothers had been poached. They grew up together under the care of Alice Goldman, who took care of them almost as if she were their mother, and they were boisterous siblings. Unfortunately, baby rhinos cannot survive in the wild without their mothers, so they were instead brought up by the Thula Thula staff. Thabo and Ntombi would play rugby, and even visit the staff in the night.

Color Portrait of Thabo & Ntombi, by Ayan Kamath Mehra


As they grew up, Thabo and Ntombi gradually started rehabilitating themselves back into the wild. Now, game rangers say that they are the most sneaky rhinos, as they are "half human" and know exactly what you are thinking.

Thabo in the bush July 2022


The next rhinos that came to Thula Thula were Mona and Lisa. Mona was the mother, and Lisa was the daughter. Unfortunately, Lisa died of an unidentified viral infection at the start of the COVID outbreak, but luckily Mona gave birth to another baby girl (Sissi) that would be the first rhino born in the Kwazulu-Natal region in 100 years. Now, Mona and Sissi are very shy, and try to stay away from all the other rhinos. When I visited Thula Thula, it was challenging to spot them, as they would stay elusive.

Mona & Sissi, July 2022


Finally, the last rhino that arrived at Thula Thula was Rambo. He arrived because Thula Thula needed a dominant male rhino to teach Thabo, a young male some rhino manners. New research has been done that shows that Rhinos who grow up as orphans are infertile, so to keep a stable rhino population, Rambo was needed. He is huge, almost 1.5 times the size of Thabo, and is spending a lot of time with Ntombi. We hope there will be good news soon!

Rambo & Ntombi hanging out, July 2022


To celebrate World Rhino Day, I sketched the youngest rhino addition to Thula Thula - little Sissi. If you would like to make a difference to rhino conservation through my art, you can find this sketch as well as other original art and cards at the store.

Portrait of Sissi, by Ayan Kamath Mehra


Happy World Rhino Day to my Thula Thula rhino family and all the other rhinos in the world!


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Sheella Pacheco
Sheella Pacheco
Sep 22, 2022

It is reassuring to read of a rhino birth at Thule Thula. Thank you for sharing a good news blog, Ayaan. BTW I love your art.

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