Father of Rhinos: Arrie van Deventer
BMW South Africa recently donated two locally produced BMW X3s to The Rhino Orphanage. We discover what they do, and the enormous difference they’re making.
Before The Rhino Orphanage opened, there was no place for orphaned rhinos to go. “Some institutions would euthanise them because they didn’t know what else to do with them,” says founder Arrie van Deventer. “Since we started our orphanage in 2012, five or six more have been established in South Africa. Between us we have saved well over 100 baby rhinos that would otherwise have died.”
Saving the rhino
When Van Deventer founded the facility in 2012, he started from scratch. “Being the world’s first dedicated rhino orphanage, nobody knew what it had to look like or how it had to operate,” he recalls. “So we learned a lot in the beginning, and it’s been a hectic but wonderful ride. At The Rhino Orphanage alone, we’ve been able to save the lives of over 50 baby rhinos so far.”
The poaching crisis has brought South Africa’s rhino population perilously close to negative growth. “We are going to lose the species if we don’t all pull together,” Van Deventer says. “Every rhino is absolutely essential for the survival of the species.”
The Rhino Orphanage was the world’s first non-commercial centre established to care for orphaned and injured baby rhinos. Van Deventer – a former history teacher who later got involved in wildlife – says it was created due to a lack of a specialised facilities dedicated to rearing baby rhinos orphaned as a result of the rhino poaching crisis.
The Rhino Orphanage received two BMW vehicles in 2018 as part of BMW South Africa’s drive to donate locally built BMW X3s to selected educational organisations and NGOs. “You cannot imagine how great a gift that was,” says Van Deventer. “We were using second-hand vehicles to transport the babies, and our old vehicle was on its last legs. So those BMW X3s were a gift from heaven.”
Making a real difference
The Rhino Orphanage has already released nine rhinos back into the wild, with another 11 set to be released soon. “That is the ultimate goal,” he says. “They have to go back into the wild, and they have to be normal, wild rhinos that can reproduce and help save the species.”
Baby rhinos are hand-reared by the orphanage’s rehabilitation staff, who feed, walk and care for the babies until they are mature enough to re-enter their natural habitat. “They all get names,” Van Deventer says. “When you think of a rhino, most people think of a prehistoric monster, but they are super intelligent, and each one has his or her own personality.”