Here’s a devastating story with a happy ending.
Last month, staff at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) discovered a baby rhino crying inconsolably next to the body of his dead mother.
Mom had been brutally murdered by poachers, who had hacked off her horn.
Staff at the center, which focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable or endangered animals, said the baby rhino refused to leave his mother’s side and had to be sedated before being transported to the HESC.
Skaap The Sheep Comforts Gertjie
Even then, Gertjie, or “Little G,” as staff have nicknamed him, was unable to sleep alone after his traumatizing experience. Instead, he spent his first night at the center with a human minder and a sheep called Skaap, who acts as the surrogate mother to the animals there. Skaap also spends time with Gertjie during the day, helping him feel safe and loved.
Staff have also been taking it in turns to feed the animal every three hours and sleep outside of his room to ensure he is fed at regular intervals.
Little G was believed to be about three months old when he was discovered in May.
The good news is that the baby rhino, now four months old, is doing much better. The staff at the endangered species center, not to mention animal lovers around the world, have fallen in love with the rescued baby. Watch Gertjie build up strength with one of his daily walks, and you’ll see why:
The lucky little guy also gets mud baths:
If that’s not enough cuteness, you can also watch Gertjie 24/7 on the live webcam that the center has set up.
The center is now appealing for donations to help them keep enough fat-free milk in stock. Baby rhinos are only weaned off milk when aged between 15 and 18-months-old, and Gertjie is going to stay at HESC until he is ready to be reintroduced into a wildlife reserve.
Poaching: An Atrocious Crime
South Africa is home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos and 73% of all wild rhinos worldwide and is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation. However, rhino poaching has reached a crisis point, and if the killing continues at this rate, we could see rhino deaths overtaking births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos could go extinct in the very near future.
More than 2,650 rhinos have been poached in South Africa in the past six years. There are now around 18,900 white rhinos and 2,040 black rhinos left in South Africa, which is home to 74% of Africa’s rhino population.
This poaching is by no means isolated to South Africa: rhino poaching is surging across the entire African continent, and is a constant threat to the smaller rhino populations in Asia. Other rhino states do not regularly publish poaching statistics, although some updates are available in news reports and press releases. For example, in early August 2013, Kenya reported that it had lost 34 rhinos to poaching since the start of the year.
This poaching is predominantly driven by the illegal trade in rhino horn; globalization and economic growth has made it easier to establish illegal trading routes. The current poaching crisis is attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where horn is believed to have miraculous medicinal properties, curing everything from the average hangover to a rampant cancer.
As a result, one rhino horn can be worth $300,000.
The high price fetched for the horn has attracted the involvement of ruthless criminal syndicates who use high-tech equipment to track down and kill the rhinos, as Care2′s Jessica Ramos explains here.
If you care about the worldwide crisis in poaching, as seen in the brutal murder of Gertjie’s mother, please sign our petition asking the Washington political and military elites, along with the Zimbabwe and Tanzanian embassies to continue their efforts to stop the poaching and animal trafficking of rhinos and elephants throughout African nations.
Photo Credit: online video from Pick n Pay