The forests of the vast Limpopo region in northern South Africa host a “mitma” (refuge) for young rhinos, many of which have lost their mother in illegal hunting activities, in a site whose address remains a secret to protect these animals.
To reach the place, a long dirt road is required, dotted with deep-water pools and dotted with naughty monkeys and giraffes accompanying cars on the side of the road.
Ari Van Deventer, 67, hits an appointment at a traffic intersection and then leads an AFP team to a fence indicating the existence of an animal sanctuary similar to many other sites in the area.
The founder of the “orphan” (the shelter), whose work relies on private donations, explains “When an agricultural worker passes information to illegal fishermen, even if it is in a small phrase similar to (in such a place there are 5 rhinos), he will reap more money than his salary Monthly. “
This former history professor, who later became an animal breeder, received calls in 2011 informing him of the killing of 3 rhinos, two female and one young, while a newborn animal survived.
He tried to find a suitable place to take care of the white rhinoceros. “I made phone calls and realized that there was no acceptable place for this little boy,” he says. “So I told my phone talker, ‘Well, I’ll create one.'”
The mission of this animal “orphan” is summarized in 3 words, “rescue”, “rehabilitation” and “release”. In the place, there are few visitors and no tourists, due to the preservation of secrecy, but also because the animals are not accustomed to the presence of humans, otherwise “it will be very difficult to prepare them to return to wildlife.”
Four female employees and two volunteers work in the place who take care of a “number” of animals, most of which are white rhinos, with some blacks as well.
Site director Joland van der Murphy, 38, explains that for the first five months, the workers slept with pets every night so much that we “become like her mothers.”
“She sticks with us at night, asking for connection and warmth,” she says, in what looks like an outdoor barn. “If we want to go to eat or relieve ourselves, we have to summon a substitute for us. Otherwise, the little one will suffer from tension and will cry and scream,” with his high voice similar to that of a dolphin, she added.
In the last ten years, illegal poachers have killed thousands of rhinos in the country in anticipation of their horns, and the price of a kilo of these horns may exceed $ 110,000, in an illegal trade controlled by criminal networks.
In the “orphanage”, the three youngest animals in the shelter share the same, “two females and a male”. Feeding packages filled with a mixture of milk and boiled rice wait an hour apart between the dose and the second.
Young animals weigh about 40 kilograms at birth, and must wait until they reach the age of five to be ready to defend themselves against their predators, and then they can be released into a wider reserve in the vicinity.