Source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage
File photo from Thula Thula from a few months ago. Source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage

The Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, which has rescued so many orphaned rhino… but which experienced a brutal poaching attack in February, has made the heartbreaking decision to close down.

Source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage
File photo from Thula Thula from a few months ago. Source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage

In a statement today, Thula Thula said the following:

The late night attack had resulted in an assault on staff and the tragic loss of two rhino calves that were both shot and their horns removed.

Since the attack, the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation (LAEO), who administers the facility, has focussed on the immediate safety of the staff, volunteers and remaining animals on site as well as providing support for the police and security experts investigating the incident.

This is Ithuba, two days after he was rescued – traumatised, dehydrated and weak. He was then rehabilitated and returned successfully to the wild. Source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage
Rhino. Source: Thula Thula Rhino Fund

In a recent statement explaining the way forward, LAEO Directors detailed an interim plan to move the animals and staff off-site to give their team a chance to recover from the trauma and allow management time to conduct independent security assessments and review the findings of the criminal investigation.

“It is Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation’s responsibility to ensure that we meticulously weigh up all the factors of the investigation and security reports. Our focus is ensuring that the facility is safe for both people and animals, managed according to best practise animal rehabilitation protocols, and is sustainable.” said Yvette Taylor from LAEO.

Source: Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage

Ongoing security challenges experienced since the attack and the review of the independent security assessments have resulted in the LAEO Board of Directors making the heart wrenching decision to permanently close the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage.

The security assessments highlighted critical issues that LAEO management felt could not be mitigated and these factors would have directly compromised the ongoing safety of everyone on-site.

Karen Trendler of Thula Thula with an orphaned rhino and hippo

Additional costs to adequately secure the facility in the long-term proved prohibitive and impacted on the sustainability of the facility. The decision was taken as a direct result of advice from security experts, anti-poaching professionals and senior police officers.

FTTRO has made arrangements for the remainder of their donated funds to be channelled to the facilities who have taken over the care of the rhino calves.

thula thula

“Our supporters made donations in good faith to support the care of rhino orphans and we will ensure that their donations are still used for that purpose.” said Yvette.

“The animals have now all been moved together with their handlers to ensure continuity of care and all the rhino calves as well as Charlie, the hippo is doing well and has settled in their new surroundings.

“The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation wishes to thank the public for their overwhelming support during this challenging time.”