On the 28th of March 2024, our team at the Zululand Rhino Orphanage stood on the brink of yet another heart-wrenching arrival: a new orphaned rhino. We braced ourselves for the unknown, prepared to pour all our care into this innocent soul. A few days earlier, she would have been playing and exploring the bush with her mother in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Until poachers had struck at night, brutally killing her mother for her horns to later make its way into traditional medicinal use, a highly lucrative market. They did not stop there, they had shot her in the process, leaving her in agonising pain beside her mother’s dead body. She was later named Qhawe, meaning warrior in Zulu. She fought hard, as did we beside her, to the very end. Unfortunately, Qhawe’s story is not uncommon, the future of many rhinos has been faced with exceptional challenges most of which are brought on by humankind.

At just five and a half months old, she fought fiercely, alongside our team led by Simoné Marshall-Smith and vet Dr. Trever Viljoen. We embarked on a desperate battle to save her, days filled with exhaustion and emotional turmoil. Qhawe had been in a lot of pain, the bullet had entered her right shoulder and exited through her left rump. Despite being in a great deal of pain, she was a fighter, who fought so courageously that we were hopeful and believed we could save her. However, three days later she had taken a turn for the worse and despite assistance from Dr Trever, had passed away at early hours of the morning. Just days before, she had been living in the wild with her mother, both healthy, happy, and unsuspecting. It is deeply paining that one night, a poacher’s bullet and a false international belief had caused the death of two rhinos within a span of three days. The post-mortem revealed that the poacher’s bullet had punctured her lungs and perforated her colon and ultimately, she had died of sepsis. Simoné, who witnessed Qhawe’s final moments, carries the weight of her loss. She reflects, “I felt like I had failed her. Humankind has failed rhinos.”

KwaZulu Natal, a hotspot for rhino poaching, remains a battleground. In 2023 alone, over 499 rhinos fell victim to poachers. The statistics paint a dire picture—one of relentless exploitation and dwindling populations.

At the Zululand Rhino Orphanage, our mission is to safeguard these majestic creatures. But we cannot do it alone. We need your support to expand our resources, to ensure every orphan receives the care they deserve. Qhawe’s legacy lives on.

We must be Rhino Warriors, guardians of a species on the brink of extinction. Spread her story, ignite change, and stand with us in this fight. Donate today and be a Rhino Warrior – just like Qhawe.

Be a Rhino Warrior
Be a Rhino Warrior
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