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