Three months after a brutal attack on its staff and animals‚ a KwaZulu-Natal rhino orphanage has been forced to shut its doors.
The Fundimevlo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage – at the Thula Thula reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal – has spent 10 weeks rehoming its animals‚ including baby rhinos, to an undisclosed location following serious security threats.
Staff were left traumatised in February after a woman was sexually assaulted and two rhinos were killed by an armed gang.
The incident generated international outrage.
While investigations into the incident continue‚ the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation which administers the facility has decided to close the orphanage‚ which ran for more than two years.
“Ongoing security challenges experienced since the attack and the review of the independent security assessments have resulted in the board making the heart-wrenching decision to permanently close the orphanage,” the board said.
“Additional costs to provide 24/7 guards to adequately secure the facility in the long term proved prohibitive. The decision was taken as a direct result of advice from security experts‚ anti-poaching professionals and senior police officers.”
Money was raised after the incident to provide additional security‚ and the cash will now to transferred to the new facilities that will take on the moved animals.
Karen Trender‚ who ran the orphanage‚ was heartbroken about the decision.
“There was enough information through the investigation for us to make probably one of the hardest decisions.” she said. “We put so much into this facility.” Trender said she would continue assisting with anti-poaching efforts.
“We continued to have ongoing security problems. Independent assessments indicated that if we continued to have rhino there it would pose a huge risk.
“You can’t put animals and people at risk. Rhino poaching patterns have changed‚ the poachers have moved because of increased security at the Kruger Park‚ which has put us at exceptionally high risk‚” Trender said.