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Meeting Thandi and Thembi

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Photojournalist Marion Whitehead meets Thandi and Thembi

We were fortunate to host the talented photojournalist, author and journalist Marion Whitehead at Kariega recently. Marion is working on a few rhino conservation articles and she came to visit the brave poaching survivor Thandi and her calf Thembi. Thank you Marion for the work that you are doing to spread awareness about the plight of our rhino and for this lovely article about meeting two of our special rhino.

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"My first sight of Thandi and Thembi was a very moving experience, knowing all this brave rhino mom has been through. Mix this in with a huge dollop of joy at seeing her healthy little one suckling greedily while ma grazed away calmly and you find your emotions on a real rollercoaster.

I went out one balmy afternoon with Angie Goody as the shadows were already lengthening across the plain below Kariega Main Lodge. It’s like a scene from Eden, there is so much game casually getting on with the business of feeding. We found Thandi in another area, rather too close to the fence for comfort. A chill ran down my spine when Angie told me this was near where poachers darted her three years ago and hacked off her horns, leaving her to die.

“It used to be a favourite grazing spot, but it took her a year before she ventured out here again,” Angie explained. Thankfully, Kariega has had some support to step up security.

Time and motherhood have calmed Thandi’s jitters and the pair was the picture of domestic bliss. Thembi looks a little like she’s wearing an oversized grey T-shirt, with folds around the neck, arms and legs. She gave an indignant squeal, all attitude as ma moved on and she charged after her mobile feed. When her tummy was full, she plopped down on her bottom, then flopped over and snoozed for a few minutes.
Angie said this is normal baby rhino behaviour. By the time we drove off into the gathering darkness, Thembi was happily frolicking around again, full of rhino energy. They don’t come cuter than this little bundle of joy!

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Do visit if you possibly can. It’s a rare privilege to see these endangered animals growing stronger each day, stepping bravely into an uncertain future. A big thank you to Kariega for hosting me on this return visit to my favourite Eastern Cape reserve."

Marion is the author of Passes & Poorts: Getaway’s Top 30 Scenic Mountain Routes in the Western Cape and writes the Roadside Rendezvous column for Getaway. To find out more about Marion visit