Phila is going home

Finally some good news for rhinos! After a year spent at the Johannesburg Zoo recovering from injuries sustained during an attempted poaching, a young black rhino is ready to return to the wild.

Named Phila, this five-year-old cow is ready to leave her recovery premises at the zoo and be reintroduced to the bush where hopefully she will find a breeding partner and start a family.

Phila arrived at the zoo on 25 October last year after being shot by poachers nine times (in two separate incidents) in Limpopo.

“She has been recovering in the holding camp at the zoo,” says Louise Gordon, executive manager of marketing and education at the Johannesburg Zoo. “The zoo staff are so happy that this remarkable survivor is soon heading back to the wild.”

The exact place and date when Phila will be released will not be made public.

According to Brett Gardener, the zoo’s vet, Phila had the resilience to pull through the first three months after the attack, when survival was quite uncertain. Since then her recovery has been remarkable. Most of the bullet wounds have healed very well, others are healing and “will heal very well over time,” Gordon explains.

It is hoped that Phila will return to breeding, especially considering the plight of the endangered black rhino. Her reproductive cycle has been checked by zookeepers through faecal monitoring of progesterone, and “hopefully she will fall pregnant once she leaves the zoo,” says Gordon.

During her stay at the zoo, Phila’s story touched people from across the world. Her story of survival inspired donations via the zoo’s Adopt An Animal programme. The zoo thanks Pam Golding Estate Agents, which donated R10 000 to Phila’s care. Other donors include Wonderware, a software company that donated R20 000, and the Grade 4 learners from the North American International School who collectively donated R7 000.

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