Rescued Rhinos @ HESC

When the rhino-poaching epidemic hit South Africa in 2008, it had put the survival of the species at extreme risk, and made the extinction of the rhino a distinct possibility. To challenge this unimaginable possibility, HESC 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.

Ike was discovered by an anti-poaching unit in the Pilanesberg National Park in July 2015, with both of his horns hacked off. His horn bed had been severely damaged; and he had also been slashed with a panga across the back. The rhino bull was immediately placed in the custody of Saving The Survivors (STS) as he would not be able to survive the onslaught of other rhino bulls in the wild. Estimated to be approximately four years old, the rhino was named Ikanyega (which means ‘Trust’ in Setswana), or Ike for short.

Following numerous treatment procedures on Ike, a decision was made to move him to the established rhino sanctuary at HESC (Rescued Rhinos @ HESC), where he will be kept with other rhinos. Ike arrived at HESC on the 20th September 2016.


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 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 Nhlanhla’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 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 estimated to be about 4 months old. She took well to the bottle from the onset, and weighs 136 kg.

On the evening of the 12th February 2017 we took custody of a new rhino calf. The young rhino, estimated to be between 5 – 6 months old, had been found next to her dead mother’s carcass. The rhino mother was suspected to have been shot dead three days prior, at a neighbouring property. Two gunshots had been heard around 19:20 about two to three days prior to the calf being found. Rangers discovered and followed rhino calf tracks on the road (with no mother’s tracks close by), and were led to the mother’s carcass; where they found the calf vulnerable, stressed and dehydrated.

Dr Peter Rogers from Provet was called in to dart the calf, but the calf ran away before she could be darted and they battled to find her again. It was then decided to call in a helicopter and the calf was finally darted at about 17:45. The female calf was given seven litres of fluid containing antibiotics, vitamins, cortisone and a long-lasting tranquilizer in a drip; and transported to HESC where she is kept in quarantine. She was named Lula, and weighed about 250 kg upon arrival.

On 10 October we welcomed a new baby rhino called Esme. Thankfully, this time it was not a case of poaching; however, she needed to be rescued immediately from a situation that could have potentially turned dire without human intervention.

A game farm contacted HESC after they had noticed that the calf was not putting on weight but instead losing weight even though she was suckling from her mother.

Plans were made to bring the baby rhino, estimated to be about a month-old, to the centre. The team drove to the reserve where the rhinos were and as soon as they arrived, the search for the mother and baby began. This was quite a challenge as the rhinos had disappeared into the bush, but emerged after hours of searching in the mid-afternoon sun.

The vet was called in to dart the rhinos, and within minutes the mother was darted first, as she would have never let anyone come near her calf. The baby rhino was then also darted, and once loaded onto the vehicle the mother was given an antidote. The team then moved to attend to the baby away from the mother.

The vet noticed that the baby’s breathing wasn’t normal and knew he had to move quickly. She was given a dose of antibiotics and something for stress before being given an antidote. Once the calf was conscious, the trip back to the centre began.

The team and the calf arrived at the centre in the early evening, where the rest of the HESC team, including Dr Rogers, was on stand-by. The paper work was completed and baby Esme – this name was actually given to her by the people at the game farm where she comes from was moved into the boma, where she would be kept and closely monitored over the next couple of days. Due to the stress from the trip, Esme did not want to drink the first bottle offered to her. We also couldn’t weigh her either, but estimate her weight to be about 50 kg.

Fortunately, it didn’t take Esme too long to calm down, and she took her first bottle during the night feed; which was a great relief to all of us. Going forward, Esme will receive 10 x 500 ml of skimmed milk, protexan and glucose until she starts putting on weight; at which point her feeds will be adjusted to eight times a day.

Esme will be introduced to Moo the sheep, who will be her companion. We are happy with Esme’s smooth transition and will be keeping a close watch on her as she gets familiar with her new surroundings.

Fundraising for the rhinos

Sadly the number of injured and orphaned rhinos arriving at HESC is likely to increase in the 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 

The Eyes on Rhinos campaign has the sole purpose of raising funds to ensure the security of our rhinos.

Some of the requirements are: weapons and ammunition, bullet proof vests for APU dogs, dog attack suite, trained Belgium Malanois dog, GPS radios, tablets for anti-poaching to view cameras off site and computer screens.

As the costs involved with securing the rhinos are extraordinary high, we have initiated The Hundred Challenge. We believe that if each rhino enthusiast pledges as little as ZAR100 (the equivalent of less than US$10, Euro10 and GBP6), we could see a wave of support which would quickly reach the desired project deliverables.

Help us to protect our rhinos by pledging your financial contribution, or by raising awareness within your own networks. Every person counts. Every person makes a difference.

Click here to access our online donations portal.


Investec Rhino Lifeline 

HESC has partnered with Investec Rhino Lifeline (IRL) to raise awareness of the plight of rhinos, and to raise funds for the conservation of this critically endangered species.

IRL was established in 2012 to respond to the rhino poaching crisis. Their focus is on youth education, supporting the rescue of poached rhinos, as well as the care of rhino orphans to ensure future rhino populations.

As part of their awareness and education efforts, IRL will bring various delegates to HESC so that they can experience first-hand the impact of rhino poaching.

IRL is also leveraging Investec’s international presence to implement the ‘demand reduction’ solution, and raise awareness in the key consumer countries of the East.

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