South Africa's Zululand Rhino Orphanage was born out of tragedy when a regional rhino orphanage was brutally attacked by poachers on 20th February 2017. Following much deliberation, the facility took the difficult decision to close, due to the ongoing security threat. There was an urgent need to re-home the orphans, and so the Zululand Conservation Trust took on the challenge to shoulder the costs and immediately began working against the clock to create a facility for these displaced animals.
With the firm belief that we 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 to move into. On 14th March 2017, two black rhinos, Storm and Nandi, arrived. What an emotional event to watch their first tentative steps into their new home, a space in which they could complete their rehabilitation process. The staff set about feeding and taking care of Storm and Nandi, and inspiration quickly transformed into hard work as we set the wheels in motion to design and construct a facility capable of housing the remaining three orphans.
These three orphans included two young white rhinos, Makhosi and Isomiso, along with their baby hippo friend, Charlie. Being much younger than Storm and Nandi, these three little ones were much less independent, and required round-the-clock monitoring and feeding every 3 to 4 hours. Crucial requirements for this level of care in their rehabilitation process included a kitchen for milk preparation, and a warm sleeping area. With the help of Container Conversions, we were able to have a facility set up in a matter of weeks. Following our rapid progress, we moved the three babies into their new home at the end of April 2017. As the orphans began to settle in and adjust to their new home, and as our staff grew accustomed to the long, hard hours, we received a devastating phone call on the 16th May. This call from another reserve in the province, was our first plea to accept an orphan, on the discovery that his mother had been tragically poached.
For six cold, rainy days this tiny calf had survived next to the lifeless carcass of his poached mother. Having just opened our doors, every space we had was already occupied. However, it is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and arrangements were immediately made to build a temporary living space to house the little calf and arrange for additional care staff to be brought in to relieve the already overworked team at the Zululand Rhino Orphanage. This little 4-month old rhino, whom we named Ntoto, proved to be a fighter and survived against all odds. It was an uphill battle to overcome the trauma he endured, but he is now a healthy young male, with an outgoing personality and a large appetite!
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 our stated mission to return all of our orphans back into the wild where they belong.