Back to Africa Check

Rhino rescued baby zebra? No, rhino disembowelled baby zebra, probably causing death

Two photos posted on Facebook show a male rhino nudging a baby zebra stuck in mud with his horn, and then using his horn to lift the foal from the mud.

The caption reads: “Worth a share! Rhino rescues a zebra foal from the mud.”

Unfortunately, the story shown in the photos is darker than that. The rhino wasn’t trying to rescue the baby zebra – and probably contributed to its death.

Using a reverse image search, we tracked the photos to the work of South African photographer Roel van Muiden. They were snapped on 26 January 2015.

‘Rhino prodded zebra out of curiosity’

Van Muiden wrote about the “melancholy” incident in a February 2015 blog post on Africa Geographic.

On a game drive at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa’s North West province, Van Muiden came across a group of rhino near a muddy watering dam.

A tiny zebra foal was stuck in the mud.

Then one rhino bull, “after being rebuffed” by female rhinos many times, made his way down to the water, where he found the foal.

“The rhino started to prod the zebra with his horn out of curiosity,” Van Muiden writes.

“After a while he grew impatient and lifted the body out ... The rhino lifted the foal so quickly that it had no time to react. The rhino then dropped the foal and moved off.

“He then came back for another prod and look-see. This time he lifted the zebra in a different position and his horn disemboweled the foal.

“Finally, after dropping the zebra again, the bull laid in the mud to roll around and almost crushed the baby zebra.”

The zebra foal eventually died.

No, the photos don’t show a rhino intentionally rescuing a zebra foal from mud. The rhino was only acting out of curiosity, and probably contributed to the baby zebra’s death.

The photos were posted as false evidence of a claim. – Sam Ancer


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.