When you first hear the lovingly pathetic, high-pitched trumpeting sound emanating around the enclosure, it is impossible to believe that the noise is being made by such a large, thick-skinned, tough looking mammal. But it is feeding time, and Bundu and Lavinia, the two baby rhinos at Inverdoorn, are letting everyone around know that they are hungry. At only just over a year old, both are still being weaned off their milk so that in months to come, they will be able to be successfully released into the reserve.
As they are hand-fed their mixtures of rice, molasses and milk, it is the perfect opportunity to check them over and give them a bit of a friendly scratch and pat! Whilst they are both very good-tempered, Lavinia, the female, can be a little bit naughty, so you have to remain cautious of their large size and of course, their horns. Running your hands over the remarkable structure of the horn (made up of keratin – the same material that makes up human fingernails), it is extremely saddening to think that so many rhinos have been killed just for this one small part of their body. Both black and white rhino populations have been devastated over the years due to poaching. Just last year, 668 rhinos were killed and their horns illegally poached and sold on the black market. It is predicted that by 2025, rhinos will be completely extinct in the wild.
But that is something that many organisations and people such as RhinoProtect hope to prevent. The team is dedicated to protecting rhino populations in South Africa, working with wildlife specialists to help ensure the safety of these beautiful mammals. Many people all over the world are debating the implications of dehorning rhinos, and how such a process would affect their behaviours and development. RhinoProtect consider viable alternatives to dehorning that cause the least harm to the animals. One such method is horn treatment: this involves injecting the horns of the rhinos with a cocktail of dyes that firstly make the horns and all associated products completely unfit for human consumption and secondly, makes the horns easily detectable through X-ray security scanners. This obviously aids in deterring the illegal smuggling of rhino horns.
Along with 65 other rhinos in South Africa, this horn treatment has been used with the three wild rhinos here at Inverdoorn Game Reserve, to help ensure their protection. The two female rhinos, a mum and baby, along with an unrelated male rhino, are a breath-taking sight for visitors, along with the gorgeous backdrop of the Tankwa Karoo. Our staff are dedicated to their well-being, patrolling the perimeters at night as well as educating the public about the importance of saving the species. When Bundu and Lavinia are able to be released alongside the three current wild rhinos, it is hoped that the spark of love will ignite, and that soon more baby rhinos will be on the way!
Until they are released, the staff and volunteers at Inverdoorn will continue to help them grow up fit and strong! They came to Inverdoorn from another farm, as both of their mothers were sadly killed by poachers. Now, we are helping to give the two friends a happy life. The weaning process will continue until eventually, they will become completely independent and will be able to fend for themselves.
It is an absolutely amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to hand-feed and pet rhinos, and a joy to know that you are part of something that is aiding in their conservation. However, it is important to remember that they are wild animals – a species adapting to roaming the vast plains of Africa. Reserves and organisations such as Inverdoorn and RhinoProtect have set very important goals: to help protect the remaining rhinos and to boost their numbers so that future generations will still be able to enjoy seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.