On May 16, 2017, the Zululand Rhino Orphanage received a distressing phone call from a nearby game reserve. It was a plea to accommodate a traumatized rhino orphan whose mother had been tragically poached. 

Baby rhinos have a very strong bond with their mothers and, for six cold, rainy days, this tiny calf survived next to the lifeless carcass of his dead mother. Named Ntoto by his rescuers, this plucky little 4-month old rhino proved to be a fighter and survived against all odds. Although it was an uphill battle to overcome the trauma he endured, he is now a healthy young male with an outgoing personality and a large appetite! 

Ntoto is just one of thousands of victims of rhino poaching in South Africa. During 2018, 769 rhinos were illegally and unnecessarily killed for their horns in South Africa. That equates to two rhino deaths per day. 

As South Africa is home to an estimated 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, that means this country is hardest hit. Being one of the provinces with the highest numbers of Southern White Rhino and critically endangered Black Rhino is both a blessing and a curse. While visitors to our province have a chance to see these majestic animals, they are also more vulnerable and far harder to protect in bigger numbers. 

That’s why the Gooderson DumaZulu Lodge and Traditional Village has launched a collection station at its new revamped dining area where guests are invited to donate when visiting or staying over at the lodge. 

When the Zululand Rhino Orphanage received its call to help Ntoto, it had just opened and didn’t have sufficient space to accommodate the little orphan – but they made a plan anyway and built a temporary living space to house the calf and brought in additional care staff. 

It is through the generosity of people that this wonderful facility has continued to grow and reach out to the many tiny rhino calves who continue to suffer the scourge of poaching. 

It, too, rose from the ashes of a terrible tragedy when a regional rhino orphanage and animal sanctuary was brutally attacked by poachers on 20th February 2017. It was forced to close due to the ongoing security threat. 

That created an urgent need to re-home the orphans that had survived the raid. The Zululand Conservation Trust stepped in and immediately began working against the clock to create a facility for these displaced animals. 

With the firm belief that they had the capability to rise to the task, a team of hardworking and creative employees built a 3.5 hectare boma for the two oldest animals. On 14th March 2017, two black rhinos, Storm and Nandi, arrived. 

The staff set about feeding and taking care of Storm and Nandi. Their progress inspired the sanctuary to design and build a larger facility that could reach out to three more orphans. 

They included two young white rhinos, Makhosi and Isomiso, along with their baby hippo friend, Charlie. 

Because they were much younger than Storm and Nandi, these three little ones required round-the-clock monitoring and feeding. A kitchen was needed to prepare milk for their three to four hourly feeds and they needed a warm sleeping area. With the help of Container Conversions, these were in place within weeks and their three newest babies were welcomed into their new home at the end of April 2017. 

Ntoto arrived just a month later and others have since found shelter here. 

The Zululand Rhino Orphanage, with its capacity to grow as the need arises, is a facility for the future – a tragic necessity based on current poaching statistics. Whilst nurturing and raising these precious survivors, it is their stated mission to return all of these orphans back into the wild where they belong. 

Those of you who make a donation at the DumaZulu Lodge and Traditional Village are making this vision a reality, or, to become more involved call the Zululand Rhino Orphanage on 035-595 8550 or email them at orphanage@zululandconservationtrust.org

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