Written by: Braam Malherbe
So often the media focuses on the brutal killing of rhinos that they forget to focus on the rhinos left behind, specifically the helpless and defenceless babies. Heartbreaking stories tell of calves trying to suckle from their dead mothers, too young to be on their own, completely confused as to what is going on, and totally terrified. They wait by their mother’s side, slowly dying of dehydration and starvation in the process.
Or some, caught up in the poachers’ greed, lie severely injured, their tiny stump of horn hacked away in a ruthless attempt to attain as much of this precious commodity as possible.
Hope remains for rhino calves
But there is hope for these little grey bundles of squeaks and mews. People have risen to the challenge, and several dedicated rhino orphanages have been set up to care and rehabilitate these young calves. But it’s no easy task.
Newborn rhino calves weigh in at a hefty 40-60kg. They require intensive 24/7 care, including bottle-feeding 24-hours per day. And since rhinos typically stay with their mum until they are about 3 years old, they get lonely at night when they are by themselves, which means that keepers at the orphanages must sleep next to them to keep them company and provide a sense of security.
The MyPlanet Rhino Fund has been a huge help in assisting these orphanages so they can continue their great work. By pledging funding to help specific best-practice orphanages keep their doors open, the fund ensures that these young rhinos get a second lease on life.
I was lucky enough to visit one of these orphanages, and what a treat it was! Though the work these caretakers do is incredibly challenging, they do it happily. It gives me hope for the future of these wonderful animals.
The MyPlanet Rhino Fund is part of the solution
The MyPlanet Rhino Fund (administered by the Endangered Wildlife Trust) has been supporting best-practice and new innovations in rhino conservation since its creation in March 2011. Thanks to the support of over 20 000 cardholders, they have been able to raise R1.318 million for the MyPlanet Rhino Fund since Rhino Day 2013. In November 2014 alone, MyPlanet Rhino Fund swipes added up to a contribution of R150 000, which can now be put forth to help fund projects such as the rhino orphanages.
And its not just rhino orphanages they assist, other projects including supporting the Special Species Protection Unit in the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC), assisting the Black Mamba All-Woman Anti-Poaching Unit, funding the implementation of Cybertracker technology and assisting the South African Wildlife College with technological innovations.
SVC was established in 1991 from land that had previously comprised of privately owned cattle ranches. One of the main purposes of establishing SVC was for conservation of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, so all internal fences were removed to create one large wilderness area. The MyPlanet Rhino Fund’s donation played a central role in supporting the Special Species Protection Unit, which has been able to maintain Save Conservancy as a black rhino stronghold.
The Black Mamba All-Woman Anti-Poaching Unit was initiated when poachers targeted Balule Nature Reserve, which is open to the Greater Kruger National Park, and supports a strong population of white and black rhino. Young women from the surrounding agricultural and tribal lands were invited to apply for a job in this unique project. The Black Mambas patrol the hot spots, occupy observation posts, conduct routine searches and roadblocks, and gather information that allows for early detection of poachers and crime prevention. Since deployment, the Black Mambas have supported the armed APU component in preventing a single loss of rhino in their jurisdiction.
Cybertracker technology allows the collection of data in an electronic and consistent manner and, thanks to funds provided by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund, the application is now available to SANParks’ staff, inclusive of illiterate rangers and other park staff. Essential to understanding rhino populations is the ability to monitor them. This has been achieved through a combination of aerial surveys, camera traps and opportunistic field recording.
The Southern African Wildlife College recently went to Holland to visit six universities and several sites of interest in locating devices, aimed at integrating such devices to assist in the detection of poachers in South African conservation areas. The MyPlanet Rhino Fund sponsored some of the travel costs for the team. The visit has generated another workshop in South Africa, aimed at development of technology as well as other tactical devices in the anti-poaching effort. Some of the greatest scientific minds and organisations involved in forensic science have come to the table to develop equipment aimed at speedy and accurate law enforcement.
You can be part of the solution to save these iconic creatures
1) Show your commitment by signing up for a free MyPlanet card online or call 0860 100 445
2) Swipe your card with every purchase at any Woolworth’s, Waltons, Toys R Us, Engen Foodstops, kalahari.com and many more, and nominating the MyPlanet Rhino Fund as your beneficiary. You CAN make a difference. Let’s work together to win this fight!