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Tiny Rhino Lost His Mom But Snuggles Up To His New Friend

This baby rhino's story is simple, but heartbreaking.

National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale was the one to first capture the haunting image of Ringo, a 3-month-old southern white rhinoceros, laying down with a little blanket covering his body. Ringo is an orphan, abandoned by his mother shortly after birth, Vitale described in a Facebook post. Now a team of caretakers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is keeping watch over him.

There are only about 20,000 white rhinos left in the world, according to Save The Rhino International, and poaching takes more and more lives every year.

South Africa is where most of the rhinos are slaughtered, but 2015 saw a slight decline in poaching for the first time since 2008, National Geographic reported. The numbers are still devastating. A total of 1,175 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year, compared to 1,215 in 2014.

"For Africa as a whole, this is the worst year in decades for rhino poaching," said Tom Milliken, elephant and rhino program leader at TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, in a press release. "The poaching epicenter has spread to neighbouring Namibia and Zimbabwe, but is nowhere near being extinguished in South Africa: despite some commendable efforts being made, we're still a very long way from seeing the light at the end of this very dark tunnel."

Without serious intervention, the future of rhinos like Ringo is grim. Experts have warned that if the increase seen in rhino poaching isn't curbed, wild rhinos could become extinct by 2020, with remaining populations forced to live on enclosed grounds.

Rhino conservation measures are on the agenda of the next Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September.

For information on how you can help, go to SaveTheRhino.org.

To "adopt" a rhino and support the work of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, click here.