Gertje the baby rhino was found crying inconsolably next to his dead mother when rescuers found him. The photos of him bonding with his caretaker have made it around the internet, inspiring both sympathy and outrage.
Little G, as he became known, even had his own webcam to bring people in to his boma as he slept (or restlessly paced and fidgeted) through the night. We’ve watched him grow and even befriend a lamb.
He is one of many baby rhinos being raised without their moms, as poaching continues to take its toll. In fact, it seems possible more rhinos are raised by humans than rhinos nowadays. The escalation of babies has led to a demand of orphanages. Currently there are a handful of them in South Africa, designated with the difficult task of rehabilitating them.
With staggering costs of milk, medical equipment, supplies and security, it is a huge undertaking. But perhaps the greatest cost is emotional, as it takes a great amount of time and compassion to comfort and care for these wounded souls.
As adults are lost, the future of our young rhinos is in the balance; how will they fare after release? The issues at hand are 1)the stress they have undergone, and will continue to carry with them; 2)the way in which they are reared by humans, as too much human contact will only serve the poachers lurking in the bush and 3)the location and safety of their release.
We have already left an irreparable amount of damage on their species (all five of them). Therefore it’s paramount we do everything perfectly with the orphans as they may be our last chance.