Orphaned Rhino Calf Rescued By Kind-Hearted Motorists In South Africa
This post is part of a Dodo series focused on endangered species. Go to racingextinction.com to learn about an upcoming film on threatened animals and an event sponsored in part by The Dodo.
So far this year, at least 736 rhinos have been killed at the hands of poachers in South Africa, putting 2014 on track to being the worst year on record in terms of rhino lives lost. But while the tragedy of poaching is often associated with images of bloodied bodies brutally robbed of their horns, the most heartbreaking part of the illicit practice can be seen in the faces of those survivors it leaves behind.
Earlier this month, conservationists from Protrack Anti-Poaching Unit shared the heartbreaking story of a young female rhino calf who was found wandering alone along a roadside in South Africa's Kruger National Park, likely after having lost her mother to poachers.
Passing motorist Liam Burrough was among the first to encounter the helpless animal, stopping to assist the baby rhino beneath the hot African sun.
"Badly dehydrated, covered in wounds and clearly in desperate search of shade, the calf approached my car. She called out into emptiness, looked on for a moment and then rested her chin on my door," Burrough wrote on his Facebook page.
"Slumping onto her hindquarters and then onto her belly she caught a few moments of peaceful rest in our shadow. She had undoubtedly lost her mother at this tender age to a poacher in this, one of the hardest hit areas by poaching in the Kruger."
As the group waited for park rangers to arrive to the scene, they poured water to cool the young rhino's baking skin. Burrough says he tried to reassure the baby rhino that she would be alright, noting that despite the horrible circumstances that led up to that moment, the animal still seemed trusting of them.
"The tragic irony in all of this being that the calf had approached the very creatures who are responsible for her being orphaned in search of comfort," Burrough wrote.
Her caregivers report that she is doing "extremely well," though given the rhino's young age, there's a chance she'll never be returned to the wild.