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Blind Baby Rhino Rescued After Bumping Into Trees

The rescued baby is bringing attention to Lewa's efforts to protect its ailing rhino populations that are being picked off by poachers

Meet Nicky, the blind baby rhino. Photo: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya welcomed a new addition for 2013: Nicky, a blind baby rhino. The rescued baby is making headlines and bringing attention to Lewa’s efforts to protect its ailing rhino populations that are being picked off by poachers.

Nicky first turned up several months ago when two of Lewa’s rangers spotted a newborn black rhino displaying unusual behaviors. The calf kept running into things and straying away from its mother, and he appeared generally confused. The veterinary team soon confirmed suspicions that the calf was blind. Since the baby’s chances of survival in the wild would have been slim at best, the team picked Nicky up and brought him to an enclosure where he could be raised in a safe environment. After a difficult first few days, he soon adjusted to his new life. The team says he’s now thriving and getting into lots of trouble, as baby rhinos do.

“As soon as Nicky wakes up, he’s ready to play. He goes crazy for a couple of hours, running around, bumping into things,” Mike Watson, Lewa’s CEO, told the Daily News.  ”After a nap, he’ll go for a walk with his minder, then take a mudbath – his favorite activity.”

The Lewa team has high hopes for Nicky. Though he’ll likely never return to the wild, his good nature and ease around humans will probably make him an ideal rhino ambassador for visitors to interact with. He’s also bringing much-needed funds to the conservancy. At the moment, Nicky’s CrowdRise campaign has raised just under $45,000 and is ranked third out of 100 campaigns competing to win the Mozilla Firefox challenge on CrowdRise.

Nicky’s happy story, however, is largely an exception to the rule. Since the early 1980s, Lewa has worked to protect its rhinos from poachers. But black rhinos—the kind found on the reservation—are being targeted by poachers. Rhino horn fetches more per ounce than gold on wildlife blackmarkets in Asia and in Yemen. Despite Lewa’s state of the art security, poachers still manage to sneak onto the reserve by cover of darkness and decimate its wildlife. In December alone, the rangers found five dead rhinos with their horns crudely sawed off—an unprecedented disaster for the conservancy.

To end on a positive note, though, here Nicky is playing in sawdust:

And here he is taking a mud bath. To hear an adorable little rhino squeal, check out 1:20:

More from Smithsonian.com:

Adorable, Critically Endangered Baby Sumatran Rhino Born 
Caring for a Wounded Rhino Calf 

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