News broke recently that the renowned Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa has been forced to close its doors because of the ongoing threat to the security of its staff and the threatened rhino calves for which they care.

In February, poachers attacked the orphanage in the dead of night, beat and brutalized staff and killed one rhino calf while a second had to be euthanized the next day because of the extent of its injuries – all for their tiny nubs of horn.

Now the Laurence Anthony Earth Organisation, that runs the orphanage has announced that following advice of security experts, anti-poaching professionals and senior police officers, the ongoing safety of everyone at their facility – people and animals – simply cannot be guaranteed so they have had to close their doors. Game reserves and parks in KwaZulu-Natal are among the most under threat by rhino poachers.

At the time, Dr Joseph Okori, Regional Director Southern Africa, said the attack on the orphanage, its staff and care givers, was appalling and tragic.

“This attack on a facility that provides sanctuary to rhino calves, most of which have already endured the trauma of seeing their mothers killed by poachers, is indicative of just how far criminals are prepared to go in the pursuit of rhino horn,” said Okori.

“The fact that they chose a soft target like Thula Thula, where the staff give tirelessly in trying to nurse the smallest victims of the scourge of rhino poaching, makes it doubly appalling.”

Just weeks after the attack on Thula Thula, poachers hit a zoo outside Paris, killing a white rhino for its horn. Elsewhere we read of wildlife managers choosing to remove the horns of rhinos in a bid to protect them from poachers who kill them to supply demand for their horns by consumers in some Asian countries where it is mistakenly believed that they have magical or medicinal qualities, or have value as luxury goods or even as investments.

The good news is that Thula Thula’s rhino calves, and even a small hippo, have been moved to safety with their handlers to ensure their continued care. And all are thriving.

But, as Dr Okori says, it is incumbent on all stake holders affected by rhino poaching and illegal trade of horn – be they source or consumer countries – to commit to greater engagement, to put a stop to the killing and safeguard rhinos for generations to come.


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Article source: IFAW

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