Help Hunter save the rhino

Hunter Mitchell, with Osita, the rhino that inspired him to get involved in saving this endangered species.

Hunter Mitchell of Somerset West, who was awarded the Steve Irwin Visionary Wildlife Warrior 2016 Award in Brisbane, Australia, in 2016 for his efforts in raising funds for rhino conservation, has continued to work tirelessly for the animals that he has come to love.

Now 11 years old, Hunter has raised R175 000 since embarking on his mission, all of which has contributed to rhino conservation efforts, but the scourge of poaching continues unabated (“Hunter, the visionary wildlife warrior”, Bolander December 7 2016).

Hunter contacted Bolander last week with dreadful news about rhino poaching activities that continue to decimate this increasingly endangered species.

“Rhino poaching has been very bad,” Hunter told Bolander. “From Sunday April 22 to Wednesday April 25, reserves have found 13 dead rhino due to horrible poaching attacks.

“Four of those were moms of very young babies. The first two babies were found near their moms. They were panicked and scared, but a special group of people were able to dart them and move them to one of the amazing rhino orphanages in South Africa for special care,” he said.

“The next one was not as lucky. Rescue teams searched in the bush for days but did not find it. That makes it 14 dead rhino. I called that baby Ingelosi, which means angel in Zulu. The last baby this week needed another big team of people and helicopters, but she was thankfully found and now can get a second chance at life. If she wasn’t found it would have been 15 dead rhino.”

Turning to the costs involved in such operations, Hunter said: “Searching and rescuing and then caring for this orphaned rhino is so expensive. The helicopter, just to search for the rhino, costs R5 500 an hour.”

But Hunter has come up with a plan. “Friday May 18 is Endangered Species Day,” Hunter said, “and it’s a day I would really like lots of people to honour.”

“I chatted with Robin Smailes, the owner at the Indigo Spur at Waterstone Village in Somerset West, and he has very kindly offered to let me hold a fundraiser for orphaned rhino on Wednesday May 16, from 6pm to 9pm. All the turnover from the event that night will be donated to give orphaned rhino a second chance at life.

“Every rhino counts and so the more people we can get to the Spur that night to support us, the more money we can raise,” said Hunter. “The future of our rhino is everyones’ problem and by coming to the Spur that night people can help in a small way and have a great meal.”