The Hoedspruit area is a warm and sunny place in the spring. Well, the day we went to visit Natalie at the Rhino Revolution Rehabilitation Center it was anything but.
Natalie has become one of our favorite wildlife Heroes. The very day before leaving for her annual trip home (in the UK) she was more than happy to spend several hours with us. And, that is after she’d been called out to treat a rescue.
Life as a vet nurse outside of the Kruger National Park keeps Natalie quite busy. Calls to assist an injured or poached animal come at any time of day or night. Some of the rescues are baby rhino. Because of the trauma, lack of nourishment, and frequently brutal injuries their survival is precarious.
With all the adrenaline rush, the heartache and challenge there is one huge reward. Natalie, and her team mate Jade, recently went out on a game drive to look for the five released orphaned rhino. These five youngsters had come to the center as babies after their mothers were killed by poachers.
Because this rehab center does not use volunteers and does not allow public access the youngsters quickly socialize with each other. This process facilitated a faster than anticipated release: First into a smaller wild enclosure (with other wildlife but no adult rhino.) Shortly after that into a larger reserve where all the Big Five are present.
On this particular day Natalie and Jade find the five orphaned rhino happily enjoying a waterhole. They’re getting all muddied up, just as they should be, and are now quenching their thirst. After a while they move off into the bush. Natalie and Jade just sit and smile. From trauma to peaceful freedom… what a journey it’s been!
Now Natalie’s biggest concern is to keep the five orphaned rhino safe from poachers. This requires a multi-faceted strategy. One aspect includes a seldom used technique. A team of anti-poaching rangers patrolling on horseback.
It’s our privilege to talk with Tokelo and Maden, two soft spoken rangers with a light in their eyes. They love their work protecting the rhino and other wildlife. They equally love their horses. They have four very unique horses. They’re retired race horses from Zimbabwe.
How does a race horse adapt to the bush? Supposedly much better than most think. They’re fast, so they can get to places much quicker than rangers on foot. They’re agile so they can get through bush where a vehicle can’t. They’re horses so they readily alert their riders of nearby predators. What do they do? They stop in their tracks, their ears go forward and they get jumpy. Both rangers have no worries about predators as long as they pay attention to their horses.
Oddly enough the wild animal these retired race horses shy away from most, is the giraffe! Yes, the quiet giraffe. Natalie thinks it’s probably just a matter of size.
Besides chatting with the two anti-poaching rangers, Natalie takes time for us to interview her (watch for the video.) It’s always inspiring to get a personal glimpse into the life of our wildlife heroes.
Then of course, the best part is handing over the donations we’ve received from folk like you. This time we’re able to give Natalie ZAR 20,000 (which at the time is about $1,400.) Natalie is super grateful. The funds will cover the cost of one month’s security with some left over to assist in the rehab center for the new rescues.
Helping is easy.
100% of your charitable donation goes to Natalie’s work.