UPDATE: Nicky, the Blind Baby Rhino



Do you all remember the story I posted about a month ago? Nicky, the Blind Baby Rhino was rescued by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy when they noticed he was behaving oddly — running into things, straying from his mother, looking generally lost. Upon closer inspection, the team realized he had cataracts and was blind.

On February 26, @BBCNature tweeted that Nicky was about to undergo his operation to restore his sight.

Unfortunately, @SaveTheRhino updated on the operation the following day to say that the vet had concluded that the operation would not restore his vision, meaning Nicky will be blind for life.

This is very upsetting news, but there is a lighter side to the story: just like Desmond, Nicky has never had sight, so he does not know that he is “missing out” on anything. He is adapting to his world, and under the care of Mike Watson, Nicky is living a pretty posh life. As far as I know, he still hates the rain, and is still best friends with the Watson’s yellow labrador.

Cheers, Nicky! You have a lot of fans across the globe who are excited to watch you grow.


Firefighters Working to Rescue Stuck Llama


Sgt. Pepper

Reporting breaking news isn’t usually my “thing,” but I had to tell you all about Sgt. Pepper (aka Sargent) the adult llama who is currently stuck in mud in Canby, Oregon. According to Troy Buzalsky, the Canby Firefighters Division Chief, “[Sargent] is fully embedded in muck.”

A veterinarian is on the site to sedate Sgt. Pepper until they can get a special rig there to lift the llama straight up as to not put any tension on his legs.

Send your good thoughts to poor Sargent! As far as anyone can tell, he is “comfortable,” just quite stuck.

UPDATE: Sgt. Pepper is free! Buzalsky said the llama was “calm the entire time…He knew he wasn’t going anywhere for a while.” I’m sure the sedation helped with that! Sargent is happy, free, and unhurt. He will probably sleep very well tonight.

Yakini, 14 years later


Yakini, 14 years later

I know I linked to this photo on the last post, but I just had to go ahead and post it front-and-center. This is how much of a sap I am: when this photo loaded and I saw it for the first time, I practically teared up because I was so excited to be able to recognize Yakini from his baby stethoscope pictures. We rarely think about how animals have unique looks. They are all “just gorillas” or “just cats” or “just _______.” I think it is good to remember that they are individual creatures with their own looks/thoughts/needs. This led me to think about the deep connection people can make with the animals that they work with one-on-one, and how attached I feel immediately after meeting any animal, let alone after handling and working with them for any stretch of time. This is exactly why I can’t be a veterinarian, but also exactly why I need to work with animals in some capacity.

Thanks to the Herald Sun for providing an update on the (once) tiny gorilla that is still stealing hearts fourteen years later!

What do you think? Is each animal unique? Is it possible to establish a connection with them?

Cold Stethoscope


Cold Stethoscope

This is the photo that brings me total joy every time I look at it, no matter how stressed I am. It is tiny, captured moments such as this that give me my drive to work with animals.

This is Yakini, a newborn gorilla, getting a checkup from Royal Children’s Hospital neonatal specialist Neil Campbell at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia. This photo was taken in 1999 by David Caird. Click the photo for the story from the Herald Sun.

I would love to get my hands on Caird’s collection of photos from this day.

What are the “little things” that keep you motivated?

Nicky, the Blind Baby Rhino


I read this story on the NatGeo website back in December. My first though was, “Oh my goodness! He’s just like my Desmond!” This story is absolutely incredible. Here’s an excerpt:

Nicky was born with cataracts, but will hopefully have surgery to repair them this Spring.

Nicky was born with cataracts, but will hopefully have surgery to repair them this Spring.

“Nicky is just like any other baby rhino. He likes to play and is curious about the world around him. Only the world doesn’t look the same to this little black rhino because he was born blind.

With his lack of vision, Nicky is particularly vulnerable and at risk from predators in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

To keep him safe from harm, Nicky has been living at the family home of Mike Watson, Lewa’s CEO, since he was one month old. He has his own boma (enclosure) with a padded play area and a straw-lined room for sleeping. His best animal friend is a yellow Labrador, one of the Watsons’ family dogs.

The Watson family and two experienced handlers, Yusuf and Tonga, care for Nicky around-the-clock. He is never left alone for a minute and there is always someone on hand to look after his needs and show him the way. He spends his days running around, taking afternoon naps and wallowing in his mud bath.

When we arrived, Nicky was sound asleep under his blanket, tucked in tightly just the way he likes it. It wasn’t long before he woke up, stretched his short legs and began bounding around, occasionally banging into things. Nothing seems to dampen his playful spirit, except for the rain. He really doesn’t like getting wet.

During our stay, the downpour was the least of Mike’s worries when poachers killed four rhinos on the conservancy. This tragic loss served as a reminder of the importance of hand-raising Nicky in a secure environment. Already, he is acting as an ambassador for black rhinos in the fight for the survival of his species.

By early next year, Mike and the Lewa staff are hoping to raise enough funds to fly in a specialist to perform cataract surgery to restore Nicky’s eyesight. In these troubling times, when the life of every rhino counts, it was heart-warming to witness the care and compassion shown for this blind baby rhino.

So what’s the story with Nicky? How did he come to reside in the boma that he currently calls home?

Nicky’s story is closely tied with the story of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Since the early 1980s, Lewa has worked to protect rhinos from poachers and ensure the survival of these endangered animals, particularly the black rhinos that are one of Lewa’s two “flagship species,” along with the Grevy’s zebra.  Black rhinos are being poached at a horrifying and unsustainable rate and our primary goal is to ensure the survival of these majestic creatures.

Several months ago, two of Lewa’s rangers observed a new-born black rhino calf that was displaying unusual behaviour: running into things, straying away from his mother, and generally getting confused. The Lewa veterinary team intervened and confirmed original suspicions that he was blind.

The chances for a blind male black rhino’s survival in the wild are very slim, so Nicky was picked up by the Lewa wildlife and security teams and brought to a “boma” or enclosure, where he could be raised in a safe and protected environment.  The first few days in his new home were difficult for him, but now he’s thriving, growing, and getting into all kinds of trouble.

What does a typical day look like for Nicky?

Nicky enjoys his life. He wakes up early in the morning both hungry and ready to play. He goes crazy for a couple of hours running around, bumping into things and playing with his handler. He then sleeps again for another couple of hours, wakes up, takes a walk with the minders, and occasionally our family dogs, then takes a mud bath – his favorite activity.

For those who are interested in supporting Nicky, what should they do?

There are several ways to support Nicky and other black rhinos like him:


This is just part of the article. Read the rest here: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/17/caring-for-nicky-the-blind-baby-rhino/

I find this story to be so inspiring! Nicky is beautiful, I would love to meet him and the caring people who have given him a safe home.

How about you? Have you ever considered rehabilitating baby rhinos?

Signature Whistles


So Long and Thanks for All the FishAre you guys ready for this? This is seriously some of the coolest news I have ever heard.

Researchers have figured out that dolphins call each other by individual names. Whaaat? I know! It’s so cool!

Basically, each dolphin has his own “signature whistle” which he uses to identify and introduce himself. Other dolphins will then affectionately copy that whistle in order to signify who they are talking to, or to call for that dolphin if he is separated. As if this isn’t amazing enough, the dolphins don’t simply mimic the other’s signature whistle, they also add their own variances to it. In other words, they change their tone of voice. Ah-ma-zing.

It requires some seriously complex cognitive skills to learn a language. So far, dolphins (and possibly parrots, according to NatGeo) are the only animals that we know who use a naming system. Every day brings new discoveries about how sophisticated our animal friends are!

Here is an article from National Geographic, 2006 : http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/05/060508_dolphins.html