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Earless Rhino Surviving the Serengeti – Dr. Michael Hutchins

December 8, 2014

This three year-old rhino calf was sighted traveling with its mother in the Kogatende area near the Mara River in northern Serengeti (see photo). Although comparatively rare, physical abnormalities like this can be the result of a variety of causes, ranging from a genetic abnormality to a developmental error in the womb. Many such physical abnormalities in animals, including beak abnormalities in birds or abnormal limb growth in amphibians, are due to exposure to human-made chemicals. This is doubtfully the case here. Instead it is more likely the calf’s earless condition was an error in the womb—a mistake made during embryonic and/or fetal development. An inability to hear certainly puts the calf at risk, especially during the earlier stages of its life. It would, for example, have been unable to detect an approaching predator, such as a lion, especially one approaching from the rear. Rhino eyesight is somewhat limited and their acute hearing is quite important to them in avoiding danger. This calf has benefited from the presence of its mother and has no doubt been able to take advantage of its mothers hearing by cueing in on her behavior and surviving due to both her alertness and protection. Nature is not perfect and sometimes mistakes are made. The fact that this calf has survived is a tribute to maternal “love” and a remarkable tale of survival.

Dr. Michael Hutchins is an animal behavior scientist who has travelled to over 35 countries including Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia to pursue his interests in conservation and sustainability. Dr. Hutchins will be leading a small exclusive safari trip to Northern Tanzania through Unique Safaris in January 2016. You can learn more about Dr. Hutchins safari by contacting Meg Katzman at 651-405-6683 or by viewing the trip highlights.

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