Nandi, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary’s Matriarch, dies after illness

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Nandi, one of the rhinos at Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda has died
By :
Baluku Geoffrey

Nandi, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary’s matriarch, has died at age 22.

In a statement, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a semi-autonomous government agency that aims to conserve, manage and regulate Uganda’s wildlife said Nandi breathed her last on February 28 after battling a yet to be identified illness.

“On the night of February 28, 2021, Nandi one of the female rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary breathed her last after battling a yet to be identified illness,” reads part of the statement from UWA.

The death of Nandi comes a few weeks after that of her daughter Achiru, that died on January 17, 2021.

According to UWA Communications Manager, Bashir Hangi; Nandi’s health started deteriorating with loss of body weight and reduced activity, which were noticed around August 2020.

“Her resting, feeding and drinking behaviour were not normal as was known before. By that time, Nandi was expecting her seventh calf. She could therefore, not be handled like any other sick rhino in her condition; a lot of care had to be taken to avoid putting her life and that of the unborn calf in danger,” Hangi said.

He revealed that UWA veterinarians visited the sanctuary several times to manage every stage of Nandi’s health condition that included administering antibiotics, de-wormers, and picking of samples for further investigations.

“The first suspicion was that Nandi had intestinal worms and relevant remedies were applied but did not yield fruit. Nandi was safely immobilized by our veterinary doctors on 27th January 2021 for further examination,” he said.

“Samples were picked and tests conducted at Lancet laboratories and the National Animal Disease Diagnostic and Epidemiology Centre,” he added.

According to Hangi, the results from the serum chemistry done at Lancet Laboratories were shared with Rhino Fund Uganda Management and other stakeholders.

“To be specific, Nandi presented with low sodium and chloride, low creatinine but normal urea, low bilirubin, elevated Aspartate Amino Transferase (AST) and total protein with very low albumin. The calcium and phosphorus values were within normal range,” said Hangi.

Africa Tembelea understands that additional haematology tests were done on advice from rhino experts and they indicated no presence of trypanosomiasis, babesiosis, anaplasmosis or theileria parva as suspected by UWA and other rhino experts.

“From a post-mortem undertaken on March 01, 2021 by a team of pathologists from Makerere University and Wildlife Veterinarian from UWA, the results show a generalized proliferation and enlargement of all the lymph nodes indicating lymphoproliferative disorder, which may be neoplasm or granulomatous disease,” said Hangi.

“Other significant lesions in advanced stage were observed in the lungs, kidneys and along the gastro intestinal tract (GIT),” he said, adding that, a range of samples were taken for histopathology, serology, microbiology and culture to determine the cause of death.

Africa Tembelea has since learnt that results of the analysis will be communicated to the relevant stakeholders and authorities as soon as they are available.

– Nandi –

Nandi was donated by Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, USA in 2006 at the age of 7 years together with Hassani, a male rhino that was aged 5 years then. The two together with four other rhinos earlier introduced from Solio Ranch in Kenya started a breeding nucleus that had since evolved to 35 rhinos. However, with the death of Nandi and the daughter Achiru, the total number of rhinos at the sanctuary has reduced to 33 individuals.

Nandi had her first calf named Obama in June 2009 and later Malaika “Angel” the female on June 4, 2011. Both Obama and Malaika were the first rhino calves born in Uganda in more than 30 years since the rhinos were declared extinct in 1982.

Nandi has left another 4 surviving off-springs; Uhuru (8), Sonic (6), Apache (4) and Armiju (2).

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