First orphan arrives at new Western Cape rhino orphanage
The arrival of a 5-week old orphaned baby rhino was a bittersweet moment for the team of Aquila Private Game Reserve last week.
The young male, who is the first orphan to arrive at the newly established orphanage, traveled by road for the 17-hour journey with Divan Grobler by his side, after he had spent 10 long days and nights stabilizing the traumatized baby and working hard to gain his trust.
Searl Derman, who heads up the ‘Saving Private Rhino’ Initiative, that was established to ensure the future conservation of Africa’s rhino and wildlife heritage, received a call from a farmer in the Mpumalanga area who had sadly found the calf suckling from his deceased mother early one morning. She had died during the night from a confirmed infection.
Divan, who has spent the past 14 months hand-rearing another calf, Osita, that was found abandoned by his mother on the reserve, raced to the orphans’ aid.
The yet to be named baby and Divan, were welcomed by Searl and young Hunter Mitchell, who has raised over R100,000 for the care of Osita. Hunter, who turns 10 next week, has already committed to helping with his new friend, starting with his birthday money, and hopes to spend his special day celebrating this weekend with both him and Osita.
The Orphanage, the first of its kind in the Western Cape, will have the facilities to raise orphaned rhinos in a safe and secure environment with highly experienced staff to give these orphans the best chance possible.
Award winning conservation efforts by ‘Saving Private Rhino’ include free anti-poaching training courses to all game reserves throughout South Africa. These courses are a great deterrent to would be poachers and ensures that we have well trained ex-military and police, firearm and anti-poaching instructors as well as K9 anti-poaching dog handling instructors running our K9 breeding centre.
Furthermore the Western Cape game reserves, unlike up north in the Kruger or in KZN:
- Aren’t plagued by snares which kill thousands of animals indiscriminately
- Aren’t plagued by subsistent bush meat poachers
- Aren’t plagued by opportunistic poachers with AK47’s and GPS crossing the border from Mozambique
The team is also committed to rehabilitate and release rhinos that have suffered gruesome facial and respiratory injuries due to poaching incidences. We are please to announce Dr. Johan Marais as our Patron and National Head Vet and Wildlife Surgeon. Dr. Marais founded the Saving the Survivors Initiative in 2012 to attend to injured endangered wildlife, particularly rhinos and elephants. He brings with him a wealth knowledge and experience and is known the world over for his groundbreaking procedures and pioneering surgeries on severely injured rhinos.We also welcome Dr Doempies Trichard as our local contracted vet.
Caring for a baby rhino is extremely costly and high risk as they are prone to infections. A baby rhino needs a milk feed every three hours and there are a lot of additional staff intensive chores with regard to feeding, hygiene and cleaning facilities on a 24 hour basis.
Each baby will drink approximately R5000 of milk a month and when they get a bit older the young rhino will eat an additional R5000 of lucerne and teff a month. In the first 6 months they are susceptible to many health problems i.e. colic, ulcers etc., all requiring expensive medications and treatment from experienced, qualified vets. Finally, 24 hour armed security is expensive given that the training course costs R25000 and uniforms can be up to R5000 with the “assault rifles” costing in the vicinity of R25000. Add to this their night vision systems at R30000 – R50000 and thermo vision systems at R100000 plus. Their backpack, first aid kits can easily cost an additional R5000.
There are huge: feed, security, medication, maintenance of equipment and facilities and staff and management expenses involved with running an orphanage.
The orphanage is appealing for private and corporate donations of time, funding and equipment. “Eventually most of the rhinos will go back to their owners once they are old enough to feed by themselves and defend themselves against other rhinos, predators etc.
We have two associated game reserves (almost 15000 hectares) to release any rhino that cannot find a home. These reserves have competent anti-poaching units and security measures,” said Derman. While it’s still early days for the feisty 70kg new resident, we can however report that he is settling in nicely.