Hunter Mitchell, 9, named international wildlife warrior

Divan Grobler and Hunter Mitchell, with Osita the rhino calf.

Hunter Mitchell, Aquila Animal and Rescue Centre’s (ARC) ambassador has scooped the “Visionary Wildlife Warrior for 2016” awarded by the Steve Irwin Wildlife Warrior Foundation in Australia.

Nine-year-old Hunter, from Somerset West, was so inspired by the drama that played out at Aquila Private Game Reserve in Touws River, in the early hours of December 31 last year, when a rhino calf was born, abandoned by its mother and the subsequent rescue of the calf by Animal Welfare staff at the reserve, that he set about single-handedly raising
R75 000 to assist in hand-rearing this calf.

The calf, subsequently named “Osita”, meaning “from today onwards it will be better”, is now a strapping 600kg and 1.4m tall. Osita has adapted well to its surroundings with the help of a goat animal companion called “Bokkie”, introduced to teach Osita how to graze and so that eventually human interaction could be reduced in preparation for the eventual release into the wild.

Osita, “Bokkie” and a human carer spend every hour of the day together and are often seen on their twice daily walks through the reserve.

Hunter is a frequent visitor to Osita and lends a hand with mud baths, feeding and mucking out the boma. Hunter, together with rhino carer, Divan Grobler and with the blessing of ARC and Rhino Art (an NGO focused on the international education of children), have visited many schools in the Western Cape area, raising awareness for rhino conservation.

Hunter says that Osita has become a symbol of hope for him that rhinos can be protected if people care enough.

Hunter and his parents have been invited to attend the gala event in Brisbane to receive his award at the end of the month. Unfortunately, funds are an issue, and ARC and Rhino Art are appealing to the public to assist in getting this little wildlife warrior across the ocean to collect his award.

If anyone would like to make a contribution towards the R80 000 to send Hunter, his mom and Grobler to Australia, where Hunter and Grobler will be doing some talks at schools on rhino conservation, they can call Lynley Mitchell at 072 225 5686.