Rescued Rhinos @ HESC

The rhino-poaching epidemic that hit South Africa in 2008 has put the survival of the species at extreme risk. With exponential increases in poaching rates, which have shown no signs of slowing, the extinction of the rhino is a distinct possibility. To challenge this unimaginable possibility, HESC has launched the Rescued Rhinos @ HESC project. This project aims to assist in the rehabilitation and reintroduction of orphaned and injured rhinos, affected directly by poaching, to the wild. The project  aims to raise awareness for the plight of the species among surrounding communities, the youth and the general public. It is hoped that with its experience, HESC can assist in the development of standard protocols for the treatment, rehabilitation, reintroduction and protection of the species.

Victims to Victors

On 30 August 2013, three rhinos were found darted and de-horned by poachers. Miraculously, although one bull was killed, the remaining two cows survived. In a bid to extract every last gram of rhino horn, poachers had brutally sliced deep into the rhinos’ snouts, exposing the animals’ sinus channels. This resulted in life threatening bacterial infection. Thanks to the work of our veterinary specialists: Dr Peter Rogers, Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Johan Marais, the pair were fully rehabilitated. Treatment required the development of innovative procedures like the use of biodegradable fibreglass nasal casts, as well as continuous monitoring and disinfecting of the area.

Today Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell are healthy and happy in their new home.

On Monday 18 January 2016, two female rhinos were poached on a neighbouring reserve. The older cow died due to the injuries she suffered. She was pregnant and died along with her unborn foetus. Her two and a half year old calf survived with serious injuries, after her horn was hacked off with a chainsaw. She has been named Philippa, in tribute to great women who have been a part of HESC’s story. She has undergone several treatments to clean and close her wound, and a cast has been moulded specifically for her.


On the 7 May 2014, Gertjie, an orphaned rhino calf, was brought to the centre. He was found at the side of his dehorned mother. Traumatised, Gertjie’s many nights spent inconsolable demonstrated the cruel and inhumane nature of the rhino horn trade.

In November of the same year, Matimba was found in a similar fashion. Very young and weighing only 60 kg, the centre had to provide around-the-clock care to ensure he pulled through. True to his name though (Matimba means ‘strength’ or ‘power’ in local Shangaan), Matimba survived. Following the pair’s amusing introduction, with the addition of ‘Lammie’ – Gertjie’s sheep surrogate mother, both Gertjie and Matimba have bonded and look forward to a more positive future.

On 10 November 2015, Stompie arrived at the centre via helicopter from a reserve in the Hoedspruit area. Estimated to be 7 months old, the calf’s mother had died as a result of the injuries inflicted by poachers. Without his mother’s protection, the calf was found without a tail and severely mauled. This required reconstructive surgery, but fortunately he has made a full recovery.

Balu, another orphaned rhino, arrived within days of Stompie. At two weeks old, he was scrawny and barely weighed 54 kg. It was thought that he may have survived on his own for a few days after his mother’s death. Unfortunately the circumstances leading to him being orphaned are unknown. We are also thrilled with the progress that Balu has made. He and Stompie have established a strong bond – so much so that Stompie never leaves Balu’s side.

On Wednesday 13 April 2016, another young rhino bull was brought to the centre. Estimated to be approximately two weeks old and weighing only 41 kg, he had been discovered by a field guide on one of our neighbouring properties. The field guide had noticed that the baby was being rejected by his mother as she repeatedly pushed him away  when he tried to suckle. It is suspected that the mother’s milk may have dried up due to the extreme drought being experienced in the region. Nhlanhla (affectionately known as Baby N) had no chance of survival without  human intervention. The exhausted, dehydrated and emaciated baby was brought to HESC for immediate and urgent care.

On Sunday 24  April, a couple of days after Baby N’s arrival, HESC took acceptance of yet another orphaned baby rhino whose mother had been savagely mauled by poachers and her horn hacked off. Olivia,  as she was named, was found next to her mother’s lifeless carcass. She was estimated to be between 2 and 3 months old and weighed 141 kg upon arrival.

On 4 May 2016 another rhino was brought in after having been found stuck in mud on a private nature reserve. It was suspected that Muddy had been abandoned by his crash when they couldn’t free him. He was thought to be around two weeks old and weighed 50 kg when he was brought in. Muddy’s arrival brought to ten the number of Rescued Rhinos @ HESC at the centre.

We sadly lost Muddy on 6th July 2016. Muddy started having trouble with his breathing around the beginning of July, following a bout of diarrhea a few days earlier. Our vet confirmed that he in fact had pneumonia and was placed on treatment. Despite everything that was done to nurse the young rhino back to health, he unfortunately didn’t make it.

A postmortem revealed that he had a large amount of blood in his heart sack, and a tear in his right atrium. The cause of his death was ruled as heart failure, which could have been neither anticipated nor prevented.

On Saturday 21st May 2016 we took in another orphaned rhino cow. The calf had been spotted roaming alone by a ranger on a game drive at a neighbouring property. The ranger called for help, and eventually the baby rhino was tracked down and found next to her dead mother’s carcass. The calf was in distress and appeared to have blood over its face, which was from lying down next to her mother’s dead body. The baby rhino also had minor bite wounds on her back, possibly from a hyena attack.

This rhino calf was named Khulula (which means ‘to rescue’ or ‘set free’ in Zulu), and is estimated to be about 4 months old. She took well to the bottle from the onset, and weighs 136 kg.

Fundraising for the rhinos

Sadly the number of injured and orphaned rhinos arriving at HESC is likely to increase in the immediate future, therefore HESC has begun the costly process of expanding rhino enclosures and installing essential security. With suitable security systems projected to cost over R5 million, it’s going to be a challenge.

But HESC is never scared of a challenge, and has already embarked on a number of fundraising initiatives towards the cause. A few are highlighted below.


Eyes on Rhinos campaign   

To support fundraising activities, HESC partnered with Africam to launch the Eyes on Rhinos campaign. The campaign consists of a number of fundraising activities including the installation of a live web cam in Gertjie and Matimba’s sleeping enclosure. This initiative raised much-needed funds, and with the grateful assistance of partners, has made a measurable difference to the viability of Rescued Rhinos @ HESC.

Rhino Art Project

The Wildlife Conservation Trust and The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre partnered with Grant Fowlds and The Kingsley Holgate Foundation. They formed an organisation called Rhino Art, whose purpose is to communicate children’s voices against the scourge of rhino poaching. HESC is responsible for contacting schools in Gauteng and the Greater Kruger area, while the Kingsley Holgate Foundation and Grant Fowlds are responsible for the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape regions. The collective focus is to gather the largest number of heartfelt children’s video messages ever recorded, as a call to action against rhino poaching and all forms of wildlife crime!

During 2015, 80 000 children participated from over 142 schools. A total of 400 Ezemvelo Community Rhino Ambassadors were trained to roll out the campaign as part of their community work. Around 6 Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife parks and the iSimangaliso ‘My Rhino, Our Future’ campaign has added 72 more schools to the Rhino Art family (including a March for Rhinos) and a community event on World Rhino Day.

Online donations

HESC receives a huge amount of support from their online donation portal (https://help.hesc.co.za) via a very active global community.


We are extremely grateful for the fostering of our rhinos , and of course your ongoing efforts in gaining more support towards The Rescued Rhinos @ HESC.

While we would love to be able to fulfil your request to meet your fostered rhino, it unfortunately goes against our philosophy of not allowing interactions between man and animal at HESC. Although we are a facility specialising in captive animals, we support the global initiative to stand against human-animal interaction for commercial gain or entertainment. We try our level best to provide an environment as close as possible to the natural one in which the animals should be living.

Other reasons for limiting human interaction to only core caregivers include minimising the risk of human borne illnesses, and a necessity to not jeopardise possible future animal releases into the wild.

Of course you will have the opportunity to photograph your fostered rhino from the comfort of the game drive vehicle on the day of your visit to HESC.

I trust that you will appreciate our stance on this regard.

Thank you and kind regards