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August 23, 2014 | Last Updated 12:13 PM
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National & Provincial
Mar 15 2012 6:54AM
 
World’s first rhino orphanage provides hope
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Kim Helfrich

Direct and speedy action by the private conservation sector has seen to it that the world’s first rhino orphanage will be operational by the middle of next month in South Africa.

The orphanage, adjacent to the wildlife and cultural centre on the Entabeni private game reserve and its Legends golf estate, will take over the reserve’s existing boma complex with a number of specialist additions.

These range from high and intensive care units for traumatised and or wounded calves caused during poaching activities to 24/7 CCTV monitoring facilities, an incubator and bomas of ever-increasing size where calves can recuperate fully, also under constant supervision.

The prospect of surrogate parents to ensure the calves “grow up learning to do the right rhino things” is also part of the extensive rehabilitation and care facility that has already garnered close to R2m of the R4m needed in funds, services and products necessary for it to work properly.

Behind it is Arrie van Deventer, “Mr Conservation” at the prestigious Limpopo private reserve and golf resort. He is adamant that poachers will not decimate the country’s rhino and works on the premise that “all a rhino wants is freedom to move about, have access to sufficient feed and water and be able to reproduce to add more rhinos to the national population”.

This no-nonsense approach led him to Karen Trendler, acknowledged as South Africa’s top rhino rehabilitator, to be a partner in the orphanage project.

“All it took was a few meetings for us to see we were both on the same page with rhinos, not money-making from so-called “petting zoos” or making rhino owners pay exorbitant amounts for rhino calf-care and rehabilitation. From there on it’s been an incredible ride and while, in a way, it’s sad to have to set up a facility of this nature, it’s wonderful to be able to work with such a committed team as Arrie’s,” she said.

Nothing would make the pair happier than to not have to use the facility at all. “This would mean there is no more rhino poaching and thus no need for a rhino orphanage but sadly that is not even on the horizon at present,” she said.

With the down-to-earth practicality he shows in all his doings, Van Deventer said: “The continued ill-treatment of rhino is something I can’t stomach any longer, especially of calves. I have stood next to the bleeding carcass of a mother whose calf was killed next to her because it refused to leave her after she was hacked to death.

“When a mother is killed the calf won’t leave her side. If calves survive the slaughter they are mostly in a terrible state – traumatised, hungry and often beaten so badly they can’t stand. It’s pitiful and heartbreaking.

“This rhino orphanage is going to do everything in its power to ensure this scene is not repeated. The aim is to give the youngsters the best chance of survival and release back into the wild.”

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