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Saving our wildlife – the South African way

It seems that many of the people who live in South Africa subscribe to a philosophy of entitlement when it comes to our wildlife. For so long, we have had the privilege of knowing that, no matter what happens, places like the Kruger Park will always be there. The animals will always be there. Not so, it seems.

With the wholesale slaughter of our wildlife by poachers, the threat of losing this precious resource is a real danger. Over the past few years, the high incidence of rhino poaching has hit international headlines - with companies and individuals alike coming to the rescue of this highly endangered species.  I must admit that I have sat back and watched hundreds of thousands of rands being donated by multiple people through awareness campaigns – thinking that I have the luxury of not having to lift a finger and contribute.

That is, until I was introduced to the situation first-hand, when I was invited to visit the Care for Wild centre situated in Mpumalanga recently. Here I met a group of dedicated people who showed me the real meaning of the words: “to care”. Run by Petronel  Niewoudt,  who started her career in the Endangered  Species Protection Unit (a specialised unit of the South African Police), where she eventually rose to the rank of captain. She then went on to form The Game Capture school, which specialises in the training of the correct methods of capture and management of animals. From there, she went on to Care for Wild – a non-profit organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation and management of injured and/or orphaned animals.

“My passion is rhino,” says Petronel, “but my love is any animal that is in my arms asking for help and attention.”  Walking around the facility, I could see what she meant. The variety of animals is astonishing - from banded mongoose, owls and various birds, to a number of huge rhino – and even a baby hippo who thinks he is a lap-dog. (loves bread and trying to sit on her lap). “We don’t turn away any animal that needs our attention,” she went on to say. “How can we, when we are all they have in this world – and often it is just a little care and love they need to get back on their feet?” A remarkable woman, who took me on a journey, opened my eyes and changed my outlook on life.

Currently housed at the centre are numerous orphaned baby rhino, a few adolescent rhino and one unfortunate baby rhino who was orphaned when her mother was poached for her horn. She has been named Wyntir and is as gentle and loving as a kitten. After the death of her mother, Wyntir was set on by hyena, which proceeded to rip both her ears off and cause a number of other grievous injuries which, without treatment, would certainly have resulted in her death. Lost and alone, she found some tourists who were walking through the bush and followed them until they called a park ranger to assist. According to Petronel, this is very rare behaviour for a rhino. “They would normally shy away from human contact,” she said. Wyntir was then transported to the Care for Wild centre, where she is recuperating.

“If only people would realise that the future of our wildlife is in our hands. Care for them, love them and most of all, keep them for our children,” Petronel concluded.

If you would like to visit Petronel - or have an interest in her faciility, please contact her through their website : www.careforwild.co.za . They welcome any donations or help in raising their animals.

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