Care-Centre for orphaned rhino babies

South Africa is to be home to the first specialist, dedicated, non-commercial care-centre for baby rhinos orphaned by the shocking poaching for rhino horns.

The Wildlife & Cultural Centre at Legend Golf & Safari Resort in Limpopo Province is to be the site for the centre, which will take in baby rhinos that have been orphaned or injured  by poaching across the country. Poaching has seen a record number of rhinos killed and orphaned in the past 14 months. More than 400 rhino were butchered in South Africa last year and almost 100 have died in the first two months of 2012.

A R4m campaign has been launched to fund the project which has already gained the support of most of the major organisations involved in the war to save the rhino. The first donation has already been made by agricultural machine specialists New Holland who have donated a new tractor to the project after hearing of the plans for the orphanage.

South Africa is home to more than 90 percent of the rhinos on the planet, and the world’s first rhino orphanage will be a major step forward in the battle to protect the species. Arrie van Deventer runs the Wildlife & Cultural Centre and is confident the orphanage can be opened soon and will be a safe haven for baby rhinos. He said: “This is a war we cannot lose. The treatment of rhinos is something I can stomach no more – especially the little ones. I have stood next to the bleeding carcass of a mother whose baby was killed next to her because the baby refused to leave her after she was hacked to death.”

“When a mother is killed the baby won’t leave her side, so if they survive the slaughter they are often in a terrible state – traumatised, hungry, often beaten so badly that they can’t stand. It’s pitiful and heart-breaking. Currently there are limited options for them to be cared for in the way they need – with the ultimate aim of rehabilitating them to the wild. So we have decided to change all that.”

Van Deventer said the centre will not be open to the public so that the rhinos can be protected by state of the art security and can have the very best chance of survival, with the ultimate goal being release back into the wild. “The orphanage will have all the specialist medical facilities needed to care for these young and badly injured creatures, from an intensive care unit to, we hope, a special ambulance to transport them under proper medical supervision from the place of the killing.”

“Security will be extreme and it is vital we give the babies the very best chance of one day returning to the wild where they belong so they will only be cared for by the medical and rehabilitation staff and the public will only be allowed to view them via CCTV.”

The Rhino Orphanage has been established as a not-for-profit charity (Section 21 Company in South Africa) with all donations going directly to fund the centre and the care and rehabilitation of the rhinos. It is a massive project needing urgent support. Van Deventer said: “We are committed to starting to build now and we need help. The cost of the milk alone to feed 10 babies is staggering – these little guys drink an awful lot of milk. The main cost, however, are the buildings and enclosures themselves, the security plus the specialist medical equipment including incubators and supplies of drugs and also powering the centre in the middle of the bush. But if this world is serious about doing something to help protect and care for orphaned baby rhinos so our grandchildren can still see rhino in the wild then we will do all we can to raise the funds and beg, steal or borrow the equipment and building materials.”

Karen Trendler has been instrumental in co-ordinating the Rhino Response Strategy and will provide the rhino rearing and rehabilitation expertise, working alongside Arrie Van Deventer and his team. The Rhino Orphanage will form a vital part of the Rhino Response Strategy National Rescue and Response network.

Trendler started Wildcare from her kitchen in 1986, and has become an internationally recognized expert on rehabilitation and crisis management, including rhinos and sea life affected by oil spills. She said: “Arrie and his dedicated team and I have the same passion and the same commitment about doing something now about this abhorrent situation. With all the security issues, the care needed and the expense of such a project it was vital we had the right place, the right people and the right philosophy. Arrie and I have spent many hours planning this orphanage and now we need help from others who care as much as we do. I am delighted but also apprehensive about what lies ahead because we are really talking about is a major war to save a very special species. But The Rhino Orphanage will help enormously and is so desperately needed.”

Van Deventer’s Wildlife Centre is already home to a range of endangered species and animals being rehabilitated – including the once mythical white lions. He has spent the past eight years building the centre as a conservation haven and is determined The Rhino Orphanage will be it’s greatest contribution to rhino conservation animal given the dire need for urgent action. He said: “Too many people take too much time to act decisively. We cannot stop the slaughter at the moment and demand for rhino horn, no matter how worthless it really is, is rising. So there is the real danger that hundreds more baby rhino will be shot, maimed and left to die – but not on my watch!”

Van Deventer is as committed as any man could be and is driven by a passionate desire to save the lives of endangered animals; and has reared and rescued various orphans, giving them the chance of the greatest gift of all – freedom.

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