Project Title: The Poaching Crisis: Leaving Rhino Orphans Helpless
Student: Shannon Schlater
Mentor: Dr. Shala Hankison

Rhinos are currently being poached to the point of extinction for their horns, which have become worth more than their weight in gold, as people believe them to be an aphrodisiac, cure for cancer, beauty enhancer, etc. Mother rhinos, slowed by their calves, are often targets for poachers. Their babies, still hornless, are left alone to fend for themselves, often dying of dehydration or predation. I was lucky enough to spend ten weeks volunteering at The Rhino Orphanage, which opened in 2012 in order to accommodate the large amount of calves left orphaned. While volunteering at The Rhino Orphanage I became a surrogate mother to eleven baby rhinos of various ages and situations. As a surrogate I worked to help raise the calves with the hopes of releasing them back into the wild. The Rhino Orphanage has since released five rhinos who are now being guarded by anti-poaching officers on another reserve. With 1215+ rhinos poached in 2014, we must realize our insatiable thirst for items such as ivory, rhino horn, and fur are driving our wildlife into extinction.