Girl, 12, becomes best friends with two-tonne rhino

Some pester their parents for puppies, kittens or ponies but 12-year-old Elizaveta Tischchenko has formed an unlikely bond with a two-tonne rhino.

Elizaveta regularly plays with the tough beast that could have crushed her with ease. She struck up the extraordinary friendship with the orphaned white rhino, Max, while on a family holiday in Kenya. The pair met at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where Max had been taken after he was found wandering through the Laikipia District.

And, despite white rhinos being renowned for their aggressive nature, five-year-old Max he likes nothing more than Elizaveta gently stroking his back as he tucks into some grass.

Her father Alexey said: ‘We were told by guards in the area a new rhinoceros had been abandoned and taken in by the centre to look after him.

‘After driving for about 20 minutes through the bush, we noticed a white rhino jogging towards us. That wasn’t too unusual as they aren’t afraid of Jeeps but it stayed with us for a long time.’

The 40-year-old realised it was the young rhino workers had been talking about so asked to be let out of the vehicle to take a closer look.

‘Max paid no attention to the rest of us – he was too busy with eating grass while my daughter started to pat him like a puppy,’ he added.

‘He even let her pull his tail and didn’t react to it in the slightest.

‘He was completely comfortable with her and it just went on from there. Elizaveta couldn’t have been happier.

‘She loved it and loved her new friend. She doesn’t stop talking about Max.’

There are about 11,000 white rhinos in the wild and females reproduce once every 30months. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 36,420ha not-for-profit conservation in central Kenya. Income it generates from wildlife tourism is put back into conserving wildlife.


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