As a founder of Radiant Rhinos, one of my dreams for a while now has been to visit South Africa and work directly with orphaned rhinos. My dream came true! Through African Conservation Experience I was able to plan my dream trip. Since I am a pre-veterinary student in college, the first leg of my trip was spent with a wildlife veterinarian working on many different kinds of animals including buffalo, zebra, and various species of antelope. This portion of my trip was called the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience. The last few days of my trip were spent at Care for Wild Africa Rhino Sanctuary where I was able to get hands-on conservation and rehabilitation experience with rhinos.
My days spent at the sanctuary were filled mostly with milk making, feeding, boma cleaning, and preparing dry feed. In addition to participating in the general rhino care and sanctuary upkeep, I also got to experience something I never thought I would be able to experience. Before I arrived at the sanctuary a new rhino orphan had arrived. She was not doing well during my first full day there so the wildlife veterinarian was called in to provide her with necessary care. To my surprise I was able to assist the veterinarian by monitoring the rhino's breathing rate and even learned how to complete a blood smear!
As a veterinarian I want to work with orphaned rhinos and help with their rehabilitation and treatment so this was the experience of a lifetime for me.
As amazing as my experience was, it was devastating to see how many rhino orphans were there and how each orphan represents a mother, brutally murdered for her horn. As a society living in a world run by social media I believe that we become numb to many things. When you scroll through Instagram and see a photo of a poached rhino or an orphaned calf you may stop for a second and feel bad, but most of the time you keep scrolling. Seeing these orphaned rhinos first-hand and hearing their stories, which are all too similar, really brings to light just how devastating and real the poaching crisis is.
I will continue to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and am blessed to have had the experience to work hands-on in South Africa with these beautiful animals that I have been so passionate about for so long. Radiant Rhinos is the best thing I have created and I am so happy to be able to contribute in such a rewarding way to the protection and conservation of rhinos. I am looking forward to when I will be able to work medically as a veterinarian with orphaned rhinos and I am already yearning to visit the sanctuary again in the near future.
- Nicolette Madonna
To learn more about Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary visit www.careforwild.co.za
To learn more about African Conservation Experience visit www.conservationafrica.net