In 2001, two baby rhino orphans were brought to Thula Thula after their mothers had been poached. Named Thabo and Ntombi, they were dedicatedly cared for by staff who lived with them 24 hours a day, feeding them from bottles and in almost constant tactile contact with them for the first two years of their lives. The orphans were successfully raised and released back into the bush of the game reserve, allowing them to live a natural life in their natural habitat.
The experience of raising Thabo and Ntombi convinced Lawrence and his team that there was an urgent need to build a dedicated rhino orphanage, and in 2015 the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage was ready for operation as the first in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Financial support to build and start the facility was provided through a generous donations from two UK-based nonprofits, Four Paws, and Helping Rhinos and a supportive partnership with Fundimvelo Community Trust.
Sadly, the current price of rhino horn is approximately $90,000 per kilogram, based on false myths related to the horn’s supposed medicinal qualities. With an average horn weighing in at 3 kilograms, this makes rhino horn more valuable per kilogram than platinum and gold combined.
As demand has spiraled out of control in Asian countries (mainly China and Vietnam), poaching continues, with an average of 1 rhino killed every 9 hours.
While LAEO works through education to handle the underlying reasons this sad state of affairs exists, the establishment of an orphanage was a vitally important target to be able to care for the orphans of this crisis until the overall problem can be resolved.