How to take care of a blind baby rhino

Meet Nicky, an impossibly cute blind baby rhino that is currently under the care of Mike Watson and his team of conservationists at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. Nicky has been living with them since he was one month old, after the conservationists noticed him in the wild getting all confused and aimlessly fumbling around. Concerned that he wouldn't survive, they took Nicky from his mother and are now arranging to bring in a specialist to perform cataract surgery — would could restore sight to the 265-pound (120 kg) black rhino.

All images courtesy Marcus & Kate Westberg.

Nicky spends his days romping around the Conservancy, often playing with his best friend, a yellow Labrador. The rhino likes to be tucked tightly in his blanket at bedtime, has a thing for afternoon naps, and loves the mud bath (though he absolutely hates it when it rains). He can often be seen running around and bumping into things.

How to take care of a blind baby rhino

Writing in National Geographic, Marcus and Kate Westberg had a chance to talk to Lewa's CEO, Mike Watson, about Nicky:

What exactly is wrong with Nicky? Can you tell us something about his prospects for surgery – what can be done, and when will it be done – and what his future might look like? How long will he stay at the boma?

Nicky's eye condition is caused by cataracts. This is a congenital condition that can likely be repaired through surgery. We're hoping to arrange for a specialist veterinary surgical team to treat Nicky in the early spring of this year. If the surgery is successful, the transition from blindness to sight will likely be tough on him, but in the long run it will drastically improve his quality of life.

Because Nicky has spent his early years both blind and raised by humans, it's unlikely that he will ever live a completely normal wild rhino life. However, it's our goal to make sure that he is as happy and healthy as possible. Also, because of Nicky's good temperament and comfort around humans, we suspect that he will make a wonderful ambassador for his species; allowing people to have an opportunity to interact with a black rhino and feel a connection to these creatures. At the end of the day, the demand for illegal rhino horn will stop when compassion for the animals overcomes the international appetite for wildlife products.

How to take care of a blind baby rhino

Can you tell us about Nicky's ‘minders'? Do they try to treat Nicky in any particular way?

Nicky has two primary minders, both of whom are gentle and patient people. They have an in-depth understanding of the species and Nicky's day-to-day needs. Nicky is highly dependent on them, just as he would be on his mother in the wild. He is never alone and always has one minder with him to make sure he stays safe and happy.

How to take care of a blind baby rhino

How is Nicky's biological mother doing? Was it traumatic for her to lose her calf?

How to take care of a blind baby rhino Nicky's mother was obviously upset when he was taken away. She stayed in the same area looking for him for a couple of days, then moved on. Lewa's rangers have been keeping a watchful eye on her and suspect that she may already be pregnant with another calf.

Is there anything that Nicky particularly likes or dislikes?

As I mentioned above, Nicky loves to play in the mud and loves meal time. He doesn't have many dislikes, except for the rain. He really hates to go out in the rain and will do just about anything to avoid it.

Read more at NatGeo, including the efforts of the conservationists to protect this endangered species.

All images courtesy Marcus & Kate Westberg.