Klaserie River Sands

Another orphaned rhino rescued

On Sunday 16 November 2014, The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre got a very important call to say that Dr Rogers was on his way to collect a rhino calf, and that we should be prepared to take it in immediately.

In what felt like a matter of minutes, the boma where Gertjie (the baby rhino we took in on 8 May 2014) usually sleeps was cleaned and prepared with bedding, infrared lighting and a heater. With no further information, we waited in anticipation for the next call.

After what felt like hours we were notified that Dr Rogers and his team would be arriving with the calf in 20 minutes. It was with mixed emotions that we waited. While we were excited at the prospect of saving a young orphan, we all felt deeply saddened at the fact that yet another innocent animal would be forced to be raised out side of its natural environment.

The team finally arrived, and it was with amazement that we took in the size of the tiny sedated rhino. A very young bull of just a month old, he could fit comfortably in the back of Dr Rogers’ Toyota Prado. He weighed a paltry 60kg!


As he was heavily sedated for the trip to the centre, he was immediately carried to the space prepared for him so that Dr Rogers could reverse the drug and wake him up.


It is hard to describe the collective emotion in the room as we all took in the very small life that lay motionless in the middle of the floor.


When is this cruelty going to end? His mother was shot and poached for her horn, leaving him behind – utterly defenceless – to die. While details are still not clear, it appears that the incident took place on the evening of Saturday 15 November in the Hoedspruit area. The calf was found close to her lifeless carcass. Both animals were still covered in mud, and it is highly likely that the young orphan had just enjoyed his first mud bath before his mother was killed.


Shortly after waking, the young rhino made it clear that he was very hungry by trying to suck on his blanket. He was very confused – a new area, new smells and no mother. Even though he was still ‘groggy’, he was deeply traumatised and evidently petrified.

Everyone left the boma, and Karien Smit (assistant curator) stayed behind with a bottle of formulated milk. The first bottle is crucial for the baby’s survival, and we are very happy to report that he took it in with gusto. He is now feeding every three hours, 750ml at a time, and his current daily intake is around 6 litres. This will increase exponentially as he grows.


The baby rhino has been named Matimba which is a local Shangaan word meaning “strength” or “power”. He may be tiny in body, but his spirit is strong.

Matimba has been kept within his little ‘house’ over the last few nights with red lights and a heater. Karien has been accepted by him and he feels very comfortable with her. For this we are extremely grateful.


As the sun came out over the course of the morning of the 17th, Karien decided to let Matimba out to spend some time in its warm rays. As any curious baby would, Matimba immediately started to explore, but never moved far from his companion. And for that fraction of a moment, he seemed happy. It’s all the other moments, when he cries inconsolably, that the true story is obvious.

baby-rhino baby-rhino-rescue rescued-baby-rhino

Said Greta, manager of The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, on 19 November 2014: “Christo and I slept with him last night. I was so emotional as he was crying so much it made me sick. He eventually went to sleep, and thankfully slept peacefully for the rest of the night. We can only hope that tonight, and every night thereafter, will improve.”


Each hour is critical at the moment, and we are ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to do what we need to to ensure that he does not become yet another tragic statistic.


To show your support for Matimba visit the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre’s online sponsorship, adoption and donation portal here.


The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

The HESC focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable or endangered animals. The centre is one of the leaders in the breeding and research of endangered species and also provides a safe haven for orphaned and sick animals.

  • Fundación Honduras Olímpica

    STOP the INHUMANITY… the POACHERS.. the TRADERS… the CONSUMERS! too much STUPIDITY for a Horn… or for Ivory… or for Skins… or whatever from BEAUTIFUL HEALTHY WILDLIFE!

  • lynne

    The only way to stop poaching is to shoot the poachers on sight !! How can they come into SA from across the Mozambique border & then only get arrested if caught? All poachers should be shot !!

    • Bob

      Outstanding job by all the caring folks at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. For the rest of us far removed from these actions, we are understandably upset and feel powerless to help. May I suggest that concerned citizens turn that rage and passion into something positive. Increase your recycling efforts, cut down on fossil fuel consumption, or write a big check to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. Or volunteer in Africa or start an NGO to assist with conservation. Advocating vigilante justice may be cathartic but little else. Well done for those who carry on in the field for the benefit of our environment!

    • Ken Watkins

      Simple answer to how come they can cross the border, Conservationists urged the South Africans to drop the fence between Mozambique and Kruger, was this a bad idea,I think so!

  • Cubbie Ears

    I’m so glad there are centres out there like yours that provide the care needed for these poor orphaned animals. I hope with all my heart that Matimba thrives in your loving enviroment. Please.. give her a hug for me xoxo

  • Nela Williams

    So so sad!!! and so happy to know that there are people like you, Greta, Christo and Karien and the rest of the team, that is so caring and loving despite all the emotional toll.

  • Linda Horsfield

    Please can we stop pussyfooting around! Shoot the bastards on site – and burn down the mansions in Mozambique built with blood money from slaughtered rhinos. Alternatively, go and kidnap their children so they can feel some of the pain that these poor orphans experience when their mothers are slaughtered in front of them – although poachers are so heartless they probably wouldn’t feel a thing if their children were taken away.
    I salute your superb support for these poor babies, because it must be heartbreaking to hear their cries.

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