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Three months after her arrival at the Johannesburg Zoo, the brave young rhino who survived two attacks by poachers is regaining her health – and her spirit.
PHILA, the black rhino who came to the Johannesburg Zoo three months ago after surviving two attacks by poachers, is recovering well at her temporary home.

Phila is responding well to treatment: Alice MasombukaPhila is responding well to treatment, says Alice Masombuka, the young rhino's keeperAccording to her keeper, Alice Masombuka, she has been doing well, feeding well and has regained the use of some of her senses, especially her hearing and sight. She has become calmer and friendlier towards people. Her wounds are also healing.

On Tuesday 25 January when the zoo held a mini-celebration for her, Phila ran out of her night room and cuffed with her head the first object she came across. From there, she ran to her hiding spot under low hanging branches and was not seen for a few minutes. She only reappeared when Masombuka called her out.

Following Phila’s positive response to treatment and the zoo environment, the zoo has decided to take her husbandry to the next level by introducing toys to further improve her welfare. The toys include: ice lolly with apple and mango slices, boomer ball filled with boskos, logs rolled in elephant urine and white vinegar, peppermint-scented small balls and a mud wallow.

“The toys are meant to elongate her foraging period, give her additional chores and to keep her entertained,” said the zoo’s brand and communications manager, Letta Madlala.

Phila came to the zoo on 25 October last year following her suffering in the wilderness. She had been attacked by poachers on two different occasions and was shot nine times for her horn.

“Her injuries were severe, making it difficult for her to survive in the wild as it was suspected that her hearing, sight and smell may have been affected through the injuries she sustained,” Madlala explained.

Phila came from Modimolle in the Limpopo Province, where she was part of a breeding programme established to ensure that the endangered black rhino species does not go extinct. She will remain at the zoo until she has made satisfactory progress; then she will be released back into the wild.

Rhino poaching continues to be a major problem in the country and on the continent as a whole. Last year alone, some 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Seven of those were black rhinos. Zimbabwe and Mozambique are also experiencing the same problem but on a much lesser scale. Another five rhinos were lost this year.

Kruger National Park, one of the world’s most famous safari destinations, was hardest hit, losing 146 rhinos to poaching in 2010, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s website.

Rhinos, together with elephants, lions, leopards and Cape buffalos, form Africa’s Big Five animals.

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