Thandi and Kapela, aged 23 and 22 months respectively, have been resident in the park bomas since 10 months of age. They were initially bottlefed and then gradually weaned onto natural bush species, supplemented with game pellets.
Thandi was born in May 2003 in the bomas of the Addo Elephant National Park, where her mother was undergoing an acclimatisation period after translocation from Etosha National Park.
Due to the stress of being in bomas, Thandi's mother rejected her calf at birth and Thandi had to be flown to Pretoria to undergo specialised hand raising at a wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Kapela, a male black rhino calf orphaned under similar circumcircumstances in the Kruger National Park, was introduced to Thandi at the rehabilitation centre and the two formed a bond. The pair was returned to the park in February 2004.
A gradual process of weaning the two calves and desensitizing them to humans has been followed over the past year, to prepare the rhinos for their eventual release into the wild. It is well-known that hand-raised rhinos that do not undergo a desensitisation process before release may pine for human contact and lose condition or even die.
The release of the two black rhino into the park today was the culmination of the work of dedicated park staff members involved in rehabilitating these animals. There is approximately 40 black rhino in the 148 000-hectare Addo Elephant National Park.