Rhinos are extremely valuable on the black market for their ivory horns, which are in high demand and priced in the traditional Asian medicine market, particularly in China and Vietnam. At the current rate of killing – one rhino was poached every ten hours in 2013 to meet Asian demand – rhinos could be extinct in the wild by 2026.
Only 442 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa this year, and despite constant attempts this endangered species, the number of rhinos decreases, with many newborns being left to the mercy of fate, just like the little Gertjie.
The 4-month old baby rhino was rescued from the wild on 7 May by staff at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa after he was found next to his mother’s body, who was slaughtered by poachers at the Kapama Private Game Reserve.
“It was a devastating sight, as the tiny animal would not leave her side, and was crying inconsolably for her,” the group wrote in a¬†blog post.
After being discovered, the infant animal was sedated and transported a short distance to safety. His first night at the sanctuary he spent with a human minder and a tame sheep called Skaap, which acts as the facility’s ‚Äúsurrogate mother‚ÄĚ.
Gertjie is afraid of sleeping alone and will only rest when he is cuddled up to someone. The video footage shows how Gertjie will only rest when someone is near him, possibly reminding him of his mother.
However, the 100kg youngster is adapting well to life at the facility, taking two long walks daily, although it’s a challenge to feed him, the center says.
Already weighing over 242 pounds, ‘Little G’ as staff have nicknamed him, is fed every three hours and drinks about 1.5 liters (roughly 50 ounces) of ‚Äúmilk‚ÄĚ eight times a day. This milk is actually ¬†a mixture of fat-free milk powder, vitamins, glucose and hot water. Staffers say Gertjie gets grumpy when he is hungry.
American conservation student Alana Russell, one of the orphan’s carers at the center, says the calf is ‚Äújust like you’d imagine any four-month-old to be. He’ll want to feel your hair and your face with his lip and he’s into everything he shouldn’t be.‚ÄĚ
The conservancy in Limpopo, 300 kms north east of Johannesburg, has four specially designed high-care rooms and one intensive care chamber where sick calves can receive 24-hour attention. Inside the intensive care chamber an incubator, drips and surveillance cameras are all used to keep the precious youngsters alive and enable care 24/7, reports Daily Mail.
The center has also set up a live channel so people can watch Gertjie as he spends his days ‚Äútaking long walks, [having] mud baths and grazing‚ÄĚ.
The team are now¬†appealing for donations¬†to help them keep enough fat-free milk in stock. Baby rhinos are only weaned off milk when aged between 15 and 18-months-old, so staff say he will be cared for at HESC until he is ready to be reintroduced into a wildlife reserve, says Independent.