The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
Rangers and vets breathed a sigh of relief as they closed the gate of the orphan boma behind a scared, but now safe, young white rhino calf.
Earlier that day, the dedicated team from Hhluhluwe-Mfolozi Game Reserve had sprung to action after being alerted to the plight of the calf that was spotted close to the carcass of his mother, brutally attacked and killed for her horn. Time was of the essence, as upon nightfall this young rhino would surely become an easy target for predators.
With financial assistance through Peace Parks Foundation’s Rhino Protection Programme, an emergency rescue operation was immediately put in motion. A helicopter was deployed from Durban and the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo) veterinarian and game capture staff flown to the area.
Years of experience, combined with a bit of luck, enabled the team to locate the calf just as the sun was setting over the horizon. It took seven people to load the one-year old youngster into the helicopter, which carefully transported the delicate cargo to an Ezemvelo safe-holding facility.
Frightened and disorientated at first, the newest addition to the boma is now settling in, eating like a champ, and is doing so well that last week he was released from quarantine into a family pen where he can now frolic with other orphaned white rhino babies also being cared for by Ezemvelo.
This story is but one of numerous such tales that play out in rhino strongholds such as Ezemvelo rhino reserves and Kruger National Park each month, with more and more rhino orphans needing constant care
Says Dave Cooper, Ezemvelo Wildlife Veterinarian: “Ultimately you want to get them back as wild rhino. If you are careful how you manage their rehabilitation, it is entirely possible. The rehabilitation process can take up to as long as two years, but once the young rhino are able to fend for themselves, they are moved away from the bomas to secured rhino strongholds where their progress and integration into the wild is closely monitored and protected.”
Peace Parks Foundation CEO, Werner Myburgh, added: “This World Wildlife Day, 3 March 2016, aims to remind nations around the world that it is the responsibility of each generation to safeguard wildlife for the following generation. These young rhino orphans hold the destiny of their species within their DNA. Their lives are in our hands, and we are committed to ensuring their care.”
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World Wildlife Day
On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designates the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar.
This year, World Wildlife Day is celebrated under the theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands.” African and Asian elephant will be a main focus of the day under the theme “The future of elephants is in our hands”. Countries around the world are encouraged to highlight species of wild animals and plants from their own countries, adapting the global theme to suit.
The world’s wildlife, whether charismatic or lesser known, is facing many challenges. The biggest threats to wildlife are habitat loss as well as overgrazing, farming and development. Poaching and trafficking in wildlife driven by transnational organised crime groups pose the most immediate threat to many iconic species. Elephants, pangolins, rhinoceros, sharks, tigers and precious tree species are among the most critically poached and trafficked species across the world.