Lente Roode on the release of Gertjie and Matimba
It’s been a month now since Gertjie and Matimba have been back in the wild and from the reports we are receiving the two have adapted very well to their new environment. They still barely leave each other’s side and have been exploring their new environment non-stop, Gertjie in front with Matimba following on his heels.
How I miss these two big beautiful animals at HESC. For five years they were part of ‘our’ rhino crash.
I remember when Gertjie came in 2014 as a three-month old, how small he was and how I often went to lie with him. Adine did the same, lying with her head on his little body, holding him tight. And the little boy slept warm and cosy with a full belly, knowing he was safe. Our curators initially stayed with him right through the night to console him.
Matimba arrived as a month-old calf a few months later, having also lost his mother to poachers. He immediately bonded with Gertjie so didn’t need the same measure of reassurance that his big brother had required when he arrived.
I’m always excited when we release animals into the wild where they belong, but also, like most ‘mothers’, sad about letting them go. I was touched that when they were released, I was not the only one that was emotional. The Investec Rhino Lifeline team, my HESC team and the veterinarian team were equally moved.
The morning of the release was fresh, but not cold with a beautiful sunrise that gave our two boys a spectacular send-off. I knew the slight disquiet in my stomach had nothing to do with the weather or the temperature. It was just my reaction to taking leave of them.
Gertjie and Matimba had come to us badly traumatised and had progressed from victims to survivors. I was so proud, so enormously grateful that we were able to achieve this and of course also hugely thankful for the sponsorship of Investec Rhino Lifeline. For all of us, the moment was just too big and tears flowed, followed by laughter.
To see these two iconic animals running off into the wild gives me hope that we can overcome the brutal rhino poaching in our country. Just this week the South African papers reported that nine suspected poachers were apprehended in the Kruger National Park. We will continue unabated with our work to rehabilitate and save the species.
Read more about the release of Gertjie and Matimba and the Investec Rhino Lifeline sponsorship here.