Arrie van Deventer, founder of The Rhino Orphanage
CommunityIssue 1 2021Quick Read

A Miracle By Mistake

Five questions with Arrie van Deventer, founder of The Rhino Orphanage, the world’s first dedicated sanctuary for black and white rhino calves orphaned by poaching.

Arrie was breeding buffalo and sable antelope on his farm in Limpopo in 2012 when he got a phone call that would change his life. In turn, he’d save the lives of many baby rhinos, one of the world’s most endangered species. We chat to him about how it all began and when there seems to be nobody to solve a problem, maybe that person is you.

What was going through your mind when you offered to build The Rhino Orphanage?

It happened by mistake. One morning I got a phone call from one of our neighbours saying he could hear gunshots on his farm. He asked us to help with the company helicopter across the road.

After calling the pilots to pick me up, we flew over there and found a dead rhino cow 400 metres from my neighbour’s house. We then found another rhino cow shot dead with a three-month-old baby also dead next to her.

To cut a long story short, the first rhino cow had a seven-month-old calf. My neighbour asked me where he could take the calf, and I said that there must be dozens of places, and that I’d find out. Back at the office, I started phoning around. After some time, I eventually got through to a major wildlife trust, and I was told they’d been having meetings for the past 18 months on where to build the rhino orphanage, who was going to build it and what it must look like. I’ve got a very big mouth, so on the phone I just said to them, “Don’t worry, I’ll build it.” And that’s exactly how it started.

Arrie van Deventer, founder of The Rhino Orphanage
Arrie van Deventer, founder of The Rhino Orphanage

It was so necessary
to do it—there was
no choice.

‒ Arrie van Deventer, founder of The Rhino Orphanage

Did you know much about rhinos at the time?

Not really, I brought some experts in, which helped a lot. But it was hectic in the beginning because we were still building the orphanage when this baby rhino arrived, so we raised our first orphan in the house.

What was that like?

Fun! Fun and games. It was a black rhino, so it was challenging, but it was good. We’ve learned a lot over the years.

What was in you that said you have to do something?

I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. Something just hit me, and I just said, “Don’t worry, I’ll do it.” It was so necessary to do it—there was no choice.

How can people help?

The orphanage is run on donations. People can visit our website or Facebook page and help through donations. It’s all about getting the message out that there’s this species that’s in absolute dire need of help. Awareness is very, very important.

Want to know more? Hear from two volunteers at The Rhino Orphanage about what it takes to mother baby rhinos and why they do it in ‘Raising Rhinos’.

BMW is a proud partner of The Rhino Orphanage through the donation of BMW X3 vehicles to assist in rescuing baby rhinoceroses.

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