When nine-year-old South African, Hunter Mitchell heard about a baby rhinoceros that had been abandoned by its mother, he knew he had to help.
The budding conservationist and keen rhino fan quickly organised a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to care for the calf — named Osita — which was at a nearby game reserve.
“On the news I found out about this abandoned baby rhino who was born at Aquila Private Game Reserve, which is two hours from Cape Town,” Hunter told ABC News Breakfast.
“I decided to help because he was really cute and he wasn’t going to live without his mother.
“So I started to raise money for him.”
Hunter’s public appeal raised more than R75,000 South African rand and he has since become an ambassador for the Aquila reserve.
His efforts also took him all the way to Australia, where he was presented with the Visionary Wildlife Warrior award from Australia Zoo in Queensland.
The award is recognition for Hunter’s efforts on behalf of Osita and rhino conservation in South Africa, but his work isn’t done yet.
They weren’t the only ones who were impressed by the 9 year old. The Steve Irwin Foundation also awarded him the Visionary Wildlife Warrior Award in a glitzy ceremony in Australia!
He visits Osita regularly, taking part in feeding and bathing tasks, and has also set his sights on bigger goals.
“I’m really angry that bad people are poaching these beautiful creatures so I want to make a difference to the world to stop rhino poaching,” Hunter said.
Illegal poaching has decimated the rhino population in Africa in the past few decades and has brought the black rhino species to the brink of extinction.
Conservation group the World Wildlife Fund estimates about 96 per cent of black rhinos were killed by poachers between 1970 and 1992, but conservation efforts have seen the population bounce back in recent years.
Aquila Private Game Reserve conservation manager Divan Grobler said Osita was doing well and was a success story for conservationists.
“He is weighing about 600kg at the moment [and] he’s very playful,”
“We had to take [him] … into our own hands because we can’t lose that genetics.
“That one genetics is so vital for conservation going forward into the rhino genetics pool for Africa.”