Rhino res­cue

South African or­phan­age cares for ba­bies whose moth­ers were killed by poach­ers

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

They are the most vul­ner­a­ble vic­tims of South Africa’s rhino poach­ing scourge, the baby rhi­nos that sur­vive the shoot­ing deaths of their moth­ers.

Many prob­a­bly die of de­hy­dra­tion or other per­ils in the wild, but some lucky ones end up at The Rhino Or­phan­age, where work­ers be­come moth­ers to the trau­ma­tized young ones, feed­ing, walk­ing and com­fort­ing them un­til they are ready to re­turn to the bush. They learn to rec­og­nize voices, sleep in a sta­ble, feed on a milk sub­sti­tute, roll in the mud and play with each other and their hu­man min­ders, who try not to get knocked over by these big, ram­bunc­tious ba­bies.

The or­phan­age takes ex­treme mea­sures to pro­tect its rhi­nos from poach­ers, bar­ring all but se­lected visi­tors and not advertising its ex­act lo­ca­tion. Man­agers say only that it is near a golf and sa­fari re­sort at the Entabeni wildlife park in Lim­popo province, about a three-hour drive north of Jo­han- nes­burg.

“These rhi­nos would be dead if there weren’t a place to send them,” Gabriela Be­na­vides, a Mex­i­can vet­eri­nar­ian at the or­phan­age, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Be­na­vides spoke at an en­clo­sure where three rhi­nos named Faith, Lunga and Matthew, all less than one year old, lounged, trot­ted and slurped wa­ter from con­tain­ers. The rhi­nos ap­proached visi­tors be­hind a low wooden bar­rier, al­low­ing them­selves to be touched and stroked on the rough skin of their heads.

A baby rhino runs in the bush at the fa­cil­ity, which is near a lodge at the Entabeni Sa­fari Con­ser­vancy, in the north­ern part of South Africa. Poach­ers who kill rhi­nos for their horn some­times leave rhino or­phans that strug­gle to fend for them­selves in the wild.

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